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Health Information and Tools > Breast Cancer Surgery >  Breast Cancer Surgery: Preparing for Surgery. Plan Ahead.
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Breast Cancer Surgery

Preparing for surgery. Plan ahead.


​Preparing for surgery checklist

  • Arrange to have someone stay with you while you’re at the hospital and drive you home after your surgery. When you go home the same day as your surgery, have someone stay overnight with you.
  • Shop for groceries and make meals ahead of time. You’ll be tired after surgery.
  • If you have a benefit plan, find out what’s covered.
  • Stop smoking if you can. You can heal faster and prevent lung problems after surgery if you stop smoking. Talk to your healthcare team about ways to stop smoking. Go to AlbertaQuits.ca for helpful tips.
  • Cut down or stop drinking alcohol. Don’t drink alcohol 24 hours before surgery. Alcohol may interact with some of the medicines given around the time of your surgery. Talk to your healthcare team if you need help to stop.
  • Keep exercising. Try to be in the best shape possible before surgery. If you’re normally active, keep doing your regular activities up to the day of your surgery. This helps your body fight infections and improves your lung function. If you don’t exercise, start slowly. Walking 10 minutes a day is better than no exercise.
  • Talk to your surgeon if you use cannabis, cocaine, crack, PCP or other drugs for non-medical use. These drugs can have serious side effects if they’re mixed with the medicines you're given during and after surgery. For your own safety, you must tell your surgeon, anesthesiologist, or nurse if you use non-medical drugs.
  • If you use herbal or complementary medicines, talk to your surgeon about when to stop using them. Herbal and complementary medicines can interact with the medicines you're given during surgery. Some complementary medicines are connected with bleeding problems during or after surgery.
  • Tell your nurse or anesthesiologist if you take prescription pain medicine. Your pain medicine may need to be adjusted after surgery.
  • If you shave your armpits, stop shaving your armpit on your surgery side at least 7 days before your surgery.
  • If you use a hair removal product on your armpits, stop using it on your armpit on your surgery side at least 7 days before your surgery.
  • ​Open and print the My Contacts.pdfand bring it to your appointments. Your healthcare team will help you complete it.

How long you stay in hospital will depend on the type of surgery and your recovery. Most patients go home the same day of surgery.

If you’ve had surgery before, you may notice a few things that are different about your surgery, including:

  • How you get ready for surgery.
  • What you eat and drink before and after surgery.
  • How much sooner you recover from surgery.

The pre-admission clinic (PAC)

Your surgeon may ask that someone from the PAC contact you before you have surgery. Someone from the PAC team will ask you questions and tell you about your surgery. This may be done in person or on the phone. The PAC healthcare team will:

  • Ask questions about your health and medical history to make sure you can safely have surgery.
  • Explain how you can prepare for your surgery and what to expect in the hospital.
  • Arrange the tests that your doctors have ordered. These tests could include blood tests, ECG (a test for your heart), and chest X-Ray.
  • Ask you what medicines, vitamins, supplements, and herbal products you take.
  • Tell you what medicine(s) to stop taking and when to stop taking them before your surgery.

Wire (needle) or seed localization

Before you have breast conserving surgery, you may need to have a procedure called a wire (needle) or radioactive seed localization. This is done so that the surgeon knows exactly what tissue to remove when your surgeon can’t feel the cancer.

You’ll go to the Radiology Department at the hospital where you’re having your surgery or a community Diagnostic Imaging Centre for this procedure. The radiologist will insert a fine wire or radioactive seed close to the area of concern using a mammogram or ultrasound for guidance. The wire or seed will be removed by your surgeon when you have surgery. If you need a wire or seed localization, your healthcare team will talk to you about the best option for you.

Wire localization: Done the day of your surgery.

Seed localization: Can be done the day of your surgery, or 1 to 7 days before your surgery.

Depending on the procedure you have, you may need a ride home or to the hospital after the procedure. It’s safe to wear your seatbelt in the car.

The day before surgery

You should have already been told how to confirm your hospital appointment time. Make sure you know:

  • The date of your surgery.
  • What time you need to be at the hospital.
  • Where to go when you get to the hospital.
  • The best place to park.

If you have to cancel your surgery, call your surgeon’s office right away. Make sure you have your surgeon’s office phone number ahead of time.

If you can’t reach your surgeon, call the hospital. Make sure you have the hospital’s phone number ahead of time.

Follow the pre-surgery instructions you’ve been given or your surgery may have to be cancelled.

Eating and drinking before surgery

Your healthcare team will give you instructions about eating and drinking before surgery. Follow the instructions carefully. This is for your safety, to prevent food or fluid going into your lungs (aspiration). Aspiration can cause serious complications.

The night before and the morning of surgery

  • Shower or take a bath as you normally do.
  • Don’t use any creams, lotions, or anything with a scent.
  • Don’t wear makeup the day of your surgery.
  • Take off all jewelry and take out all piercings.
  • Don’t wear contact lenses on the day of your surgery.​​​​​​​​​

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