Preparation Before Cancer Surgery: Part 1

Major cancer surgery is a demanding test of human physiology and reserve capacity. There are many variables involved in the management of a cancer patient before and after surgery. In this series, we discuss some factors which may be of help to a patient who is going to undergo surgery for cancer.

Cancers within the abdomen are amongst the most common cancers encountered in routine oncology practice. Many abdominal cancers require surgery as the main modality of treatment. Abdominal surgery is a daunting proposition in a normal individual, it is however far bigger proposition in a patient suffering from cancer(who may be nutritionally depleted). The most common complications that occur following major abdominal surgery are lung (pulmonary) complications. There are several ways by which we can try to avoid or reduce these complications, including the use of laparoscopic (minimally invasive surgery) surgery where feasible, ERAS(enhanced recovery after surgery) protocols, multi-modal pain management, aggressive physiotherapy (all of which are routinely practiced in experienced centers including our center). A simple method to reduce pulmonary complications, which does not require a doctor is to use an incentive spirometer/respirometer.

This is a simple device, which helps in expanding the lung capacity which helps in reducing lung-related complications.

Below is a link to a video demonstrating the correct use of a respirometer.

This is a picture of an incentive spirometer in a article on the benefits of spirometry in major cancer surgery by Dr vivekanandan Jayakumar

In addition, several of our patients practice simple deep breathing exercises (such as pranayama). We encourage all of our patients to either start simple exercises or continue what they were previously doing as this can help augment lung capacity and aid in recovery. It is vital to practice these exercises well before surgery, with the added benefit that it is easier to perform them even after major cancer surgery due to the body being accustomed to performing these exercises.

Please let us know what you think about this article