About Your Gastrectomy Surgery

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Time to Read: About 26 minutes

This guide will help you get ready for your gastrectomy at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK). It will also help you understand what to expect during your recovery.

Read through this guide at least once before your surgery and use it as a reference in the days leading up to your surgery.

Bring this guide with you every time you come to MSK, including the day of your surgery. You and your healthcare team will refer to it throughout your care.

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About Your Surgery

Your stomach

Your stomach is an organ in your digestive system that helps store and digest food. It’s located between your esophagus (food pipe) and small intestine (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. The digestive system

Figure 1. The digestive system

The walls of your stomach are made up of muscles that churn and break down food into small pieces. Your stomach also makes acid that starts to digest (break down) food.

When food leaves your stomach, it moves into your small intestine. The first parts of your small intestine are the duodenum and the jejunum. Your food continues to be digested and absorbed in your small intestine.

Gastrectomy

Gastrectomy is a surgery that’s done to treat stomach cancer. During your gastrectomy, your surgeon may remove part or all of your stomach. There are several kinds of gastrectomies:

  • A subtotal gastrectomy includes removing the part of your stomach with cancer, nearby lymph nodes, and possibly parts of other organs near the tumor (see Figures 2 and 3). ​
Figure 2. Your digestive system before your subtotal gastrectomy

Figure 2. Your digestive system before your subtotal gastrectomy

Figure 3. Your digestive system after your subtotal gastrectomy

Figure 3. Your digestive system after your subtotal gastrectomy

  • A total gastrectomy involves removing your whole stomach, nearby lymph nodes, and parts of your esophagus and small intestine. Your esophagus is reconnected to your small intestine so you can continue to eat and swallow (see Figures 4 and 5).
Figure 4. Your digestive system before your total gastrectomy

Figure 4. Your digestive system before your total gastrectomy

Figure 5. Your digestive system after your total gastrectomy

Figure 5. Your digestive system after your total gastrectomy

A gastrectomy can be done in different ways. Your surgeon will talk with you about which options are right for you. Depending on what surgery you have, your surgeon will make 1 or more incisions (surgical cuts) on your belly.

  • When 1 long incision is made, it’s called an open surgery. Some or all of your stomach is removed through this incision.
  • When several small incisions are made, it’s called laparoscopic minimally invasive surgery. Small surgical instruments and a laparoscope (a tube-like instrument with a camera) are put into the incisions to remove the part of your stomach that has the cancer.

Your surgeon may use a robotic device to help with your surgery.

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Getting Ready for Your Surgery

This section will help you get ready for your surgery. Read it when your surgery is scheduled. Refer to it as your surgery gets closer. It has important information about what to do to get ready.

As you read through this section, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.

Getting ready for surgery

You and your care team will work together to get ready for your surgery. Help us keep you safe during your surgery by telling us if any of the following statements apply to you, even if you’re not sure.

  • I take a blood thinner, such as:
    • Aspirin
    • Heparin
    • Warfarin (Jantoven® or Coumadin®)
    • Clopidogrel (Plavix®)
    • Enoxaparin (Lovenox®)
    • Dabigatran (Pradaxa®)
    • Apixaban (Eliquis®)
    • Rivaroxaban (Xarelto®)
    There are others, so be sure your healthcare provider knows all the medications you’re taking.
  • I take prescription medications (medications my healthcare provider prescribes), including patches and creams.
  • I take over-the-counter medications (medications I buy without a prescription), including patches and creams.
  • I take dietary supplements, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, or natural or home remedies.
  • I have a pacemaker, automatic implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (AICD), or other heart device.
  • I have sleep apnea.
  • I’ve had a problem with anesthesia (medication to make me sleep during surgery) in the past.
  • I’m allergic to certain medication(s) or materials, including latex.
  • I’m not willing to receive a blood transfusion.
  • I drink alcohol.
  • I smoke or use an electronic smoking device, such as a vape pen, e-cigarette, or Juul®.
  • I use recreational drugs.

About drinking alcohol

The amount of alcohol you drink can affect you during and after your surgery. It’s important to talk with your healthcare providers about how much alcohol you drink. This will help us plan your care.

  • If you stop drinking alcohol suddenly, it can cause seizures, delirium, and death. If we know you’re at risk for these problems, we can prescribe medications to help keep them from happening.
  • If you drink alcohol regularly, you may be at risk for other problems during and after your surgery. These include bleeding, infections, heart problems, and a longer hospital stay.

Here are things you can do before your surgery to keep from having problems:

  • Be honest with your healthcare providers about how much alcohol you drink.
  • Try to stop drinking alcohol once your surgery is planned. Tell your healthcare provider right away if you:
    • Get a headache.
    • Feel nauseous (like you’re going to throw up).
    • Feel more anxious (nervous or worried) than usual.
    • Cannot sleep.
    These are early signs of alcohol withdrawal and can be treated.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if you cannot stop drinking.
  • Ask your healthcare provider questions about drinking and surgery. As always, all your medical information will be kept private.

About smoking

If you smoke, you can have breathing problems when you have surgery. Stopping for even a few days before your surgery can help.

Your healthcare provider will refer you to our Tobacco Treatment Program if you smoke. You can also reach the program by calling 212-610-0507.

About sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a common breathing problem. It causes you to stop breathing for short lengths of time while you’re asleep. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). With OSA, your airway becomes fully blocked during sleep.

OSA can cause serious problems during and after a procedure. Please tell us if you have or think you might have sleep apnea. If you use a breathing device (such as a CPAP machine), bring it on the day of your procedure.

Within 30 days of your surgery

Presurgical Testing (PST)

You’ll have a PST appointment before your surgery. The date, time, and location will be printed on the appointment reminder from your surgeon’s office. You can eat and take your usual medications the day of your appointment.

It’s helpful to bring these things to your appointment:

  • A list of all the medications you’re taking, including prescription and over-the-counter medications, patches, and creams.
  • Results of any tests done outside of MSK, such as a cardiac stress test, echocardiogram, or carotid doppler study.
  • The names and telephone numbers of your healthcare providers.

During your PST appointment, you’ll meet with a nurse practitioner (NP). They work closely with anesthesiology staff (specialized healthcare providers who will give you anesthesia during your surgery). Your NP will review your medical and surgical history with you. You may have tests to plan your care. Examples are:

  • An electrocardiogram (EKG) to check your heart rhythm.
  • A chest X-ray.
  • Blood tests.

Your NP may recommend you see other healthcare providers. They’ll also talk with you about which medications to take the morning of your surgery.

Identify your caregiver

Your caregiver plays an important role in your care. Before your surgery, you and your caregiver will learn about your surgery from your healthcare providers. After your surgery, your caregiver will take you home when you’re discharged from the hospital. They’ll also help you care for yourself at home.

For caregivers

‌  Caring for a person going through cancer treatment comes with many responsibilities. MSK offers resources and support to help you manage them. For information, visit www.mskcc.org/caregivers or read A Guide for Caregivers.

Complete a Health Care Proxy form

If you have not already filled out a Health Care Proxy form, we recommend you do now. If you already filled one out or have any other advance directives, bring them to your next appointment.

A health care proxy is a legal document. It says who will speak for you if you cannot communicate for yourself. This person is called your health care agent.

  • For information about health care proxies and other advance directives, read Advance Care Planning.
  • For information about being a health care agent, read How to Be a Health Care Agent.
  • If you have more questions about filling out a Health Care Proxy form, talk with your healthcare provider.

Do breathing and coughing exercises

Practice taking deep breaths and coughing before your surgery. Your healthcare provider will give you an incentive spirometer to help expand your lungs. For more information, read How to Use Your Incentive Spirometer.

Exercise

Exercising will help your body get into its best condition for your surgery and make your recovery faster and easier.

Try to do aerobic exercise every day. Aerobic exercise is any exercise that makes your heart beat faster, such as walking, swimming, or biking. If it’s cold outside, use stairs in your home or go to a mall or shopping center.

Follow a healthy diet

Follow a well-balanced, healthy diet before your surgery. If you need help with your diet, talk with your healthcare provider about meeting with a clinical dietitian nutritionist.

Buy a 4% chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG) solution antiseptic skin cleanser (such as Hibiclens®)

4% CHG solution is a skin cleanser that kills germs for 24 hours after you use it. Showering with it before your surgery will help lower your risk of infection after surgery. You can buy a 4% CHG solution antiseptic skin cleanser at your local pharmacy without a prescription.

7 days before your surgery

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for taking aspirin

If you take aspirin or a medication that contains aspirin, you may need to change your dose or stop taking it 7 days before your surgery. Aspirin can cause bleeding.

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Do not stop taking aspirin unless they tell you to.

For more information, read Common Medications Containing Aspirin, Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), or Vitamin E.

Stop taking vitamin E, multivitamins, herbal remedies, and other dietary supplements

Stop taking vitamin E, multivitamins, herbal remedies, and other dietary supplements 7 days before your surgery. These things can cause bleeding.

If your healthcare provider gives you other instructions, follow those instead.

For more information, read Herbal Remedies and Cancer Treatment.

2 days before your surgery

Stop taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Stop taking NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil® and Motrin®) and naproxen (Aleve®), 2 days before your surgery. NSAIDs can cause bleeding.

If your healthcare provider gives you other instructions, follow those instead.

For more information, read Common Medications Containing Aspirin, Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), or Vitamin E.

1 day before your surgery

Follow a clear liquid diet

You’ll need to follow a clear liquid diet the day before your surgery. Your healthcare provider will tell you if you’ll need to start earlier or do any additional bowel preparation.

A clear liquid diet includes only liquids you can see through. Examples are listed in the “Clear Liquid Diet” table. While you’re following this diet:

  • Don’t eat any solid foods.
  • Try to drink at least 1 (8-ounce) glass of clear liquid every hour while you’re awake.
  • Drink different types of clear liquids. Don’t just drink water, coffee, and tea.
  • Don’t drink sugar-free liquids unless you have diabetes and a member of your healthcare team tells you to.
For people with diabetes

If you have diabetes, ask the healthcare provider who manages your diabetes what you should do while you’re following a clear liquid diet.

  • If you take insulin or another medication for diabetes, ask if you need to change the dose.
  • Ask if you should drink sugar-free clear liquids.

While you’re following a clear liquid diet, make sure to check your blood sugar level often. If you have any questions, talk with your healthcare provider.

Clear Liquid Diet
  OK to Drink Do Not Drink
Soups
  • Clear broth, bouillon, or consommé.
  • Any products with pieces of dried food or seasoning.
Sweets
  • Gelatin, such as Jell-O®.
  • Flavored ices.
  • Hard candies, such as Life Savers®.
  • All others.
Drinks
  • Clear fruit juices, such as lemonade, apple, cranberry, and grape juices.
  • Soda, such as ginger ale, 7UP®, Sprite®, and seltzer.
  • Sports drinks, such as Gatorade® and Powerade®.
  • Black coffee.
  • Tea.
  • Water.
  • Juices with pulp.
  • Nectars.
  • Smoothies or shakes.
  • Milk or cream.
  • Alcoholic drinks.

Note the time of your surgery

A staff member from the Admitting Office will call you after the day before your surgery. If your surgery is scheduled for a Monday, they’ll call you the Friday before. If you do not get a call by , call 212-639-5014.

The staff member will tell you what time to arrive at the hospital for your surgery. They’ll also remind you where to go.

This will be one of the following locations:

  • Presurgical Center (PSC) on the 2nd floor
    1275 York Avenue (between East 67th and East 68th Streets)
    New York, NY 10065
    M elevator to 2nd floor
  • Presurgical Center (PSC) on the 6th floor
    1275 York Avenue (between East 67th and East 68th Streets)
    New York, NY 10065
    B elevator to 6th floor

Shower with a 4% CHG solution antiseptic skin cleanser (such as Hibiclens)

The night before your surgery, shower with a 4% CHG solution antiseptic skin cleanser.

  1. Wash your hair with your usual shampoo and conditioner. Rinse your head well.
  2. Wash your face and genital (groin) area with your usual soap. Rinse your body well with warm water.
  3. Open the 4% CHG solution bottle. Pour some into your hand or a clean washcloth.
  4. Move away from the shower stream. Rub the 4% CHG solution gently over your body from your neck to your feet. Do not put it on your face or genital area.
  5. Move back into the shower stream to rinse off the 4% CHG solution. Use warm water.
  6. Dry yourself off with a clean towel.

Do not use any lotion, cream, deodorant, makeup, powder, perfume, or cologne after your shower.

Sleep

Go to bed early and get a full night’s sleep.

Instructions for eating before your surgery

‌  
Do not eat anything after midnight the night before your surgery. This includes hard candy and gum.
 

The morning of your surgery

Instructions for drinking before your surgery

‌  You can drink a total of 12 ounces of water between midnight and 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time. Do not drink anything else.

Do not drink anything starting 2 hours before your scheduled arrival time. This includes water.

Take your medications as instructed

A member of your care team will tell you which medications to take the morning of your surgery. Take only those medications with a sip of water. Depending on what medications you take, this may be all, some, or none of your usual morning medications.

Shower with a 4% CHG solution antiseptic skin cleanser (such as Hibiclens)

Shower with a 4% CHG solution antiseptic skin cleanser before you leave for the hospital. Use it the same way you did the night before.

Do not put on any lotion, cream, deodorant, makeup, powder, perfume, or cologne after your shower.

Things to remember

  • Wear something comfortable and loose-fitting.
  • If you wear contact lenses, wear your glasses instead. Wearing contact lenses during surgery can damage your eyes.
  • Don’t wear any metal objects. Remove all jewelry, including body piercings. The equipment used during your surgery can cause burns if it touches metal.
  • Don’t put on any lotion, cream, deodorant, makeup, powder, perfume, or cologne.
  • Leave valuable items (such as credit cards, jewelry, and your checkbook) at home.
  • If you’re menstruating (have your monthly period), use a sanitary pad, not a tampon. You’ll get disposable underwear, as well as a pad if needed.

What to bring

  • Sneakers that lace up. You may have some swelling in your feet. Lace-up sneakers can accommodate this swelling.
  • Your breathing machine for sleep apnea (such as your CPAP), if you have one.
  • Your incentive spirometer, if you have one.
  • Your Health Care Proxy form and other advance directives, if you completed them.
  • Only the money you may want for small purchases (such as a newspaper).
  • A case for your personal items (such as eyeglasses, hearing aid(s), dentures, prosthetic device(s), wig, and religious articles), if you have one.
  • This guide. Your healthcare team will use it to teach you how to care for yourself after surgery.

Where to park

MSK's parking garage

MSK’s parking garage is on East 66th Street between York and 1st avenues. If you have questions about prices, call 212-639-2338.

To reach the garage, turn onto East 66th Street from York Avenue. The garage is about a quarter of a block in from York Avenue. It’s on the right (north) side of the street. There’s a tunnel you can walk through that connects the garage to the hospital.

There are other parking garages located on:

  • East 69th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues.
  • East 67th Street between York and 1st avenues.
  • East 65th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues.

Once you’re in the hospital

You’ll be asked to say and spell your name and birth date many times. This is for your safety. People with the same or a similar name may be having surgery on the same day.

Get dressed for surgery

When it’s time to change for surgery, you’ll get a hospital gown, robe, and nonskid socks to wear.

Meet with a nurse

You’ll meet with a nurse before surgery. Tell them the dose of any medications you took after midnight and the time you took them. Make sure to include prescription and over-the-counter medications, patches, and creams.

Your nurse may place an intravenous (IV) line in one of your veins, usually in your arm or hand. If your nurse does not place the IV, your anesthesiologist will do it in the operating room.

Meet with an anesthesiologist

You’ll also meet with an anesthesiologist before surgery. They will:

  • Review your medical history with you.
  • Ask you if you’ve had any problems with anesthesia in the past, including nausea or pain.
  • Talk with you about your comfort and safety during your surgery.
  • Talk with you about the kind of anesthesia you’ll get.
  • Answer your questions about your anesthesia.

Get ready for your surgery

When it’s time for your surgery, you’ll need to remove your eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures, prosthetic devices, wig, and religious articles.

You’ll either walk into the operating room or a staff member will bring you there a stretcher. A member of the operating room team will help you onto the operating bed. They’ll place compression boots on your lower legs. These gently inflate and deflate to help blood flow in your legs.

Once you’re comfortable, your anesthesiologist will give you anesthesia through your IV line and you’ll fall asleep. You’ll also get fluids through your IV line during and after your surgery.

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Recovering After Your Surgery

This section will help you know what to expect after your surgery. You’ll learn how to safely recover from your surgery both in the hospital and at home.

As you read through this section, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.

What to expect

When you wake up after your surgery, you’ll be in the Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU).

A nurse will be keeping track of your body temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and oxygen levels. You may be getting oxygen through a thin tube that rests below your nose or a mask that covers your nose and mouth.

You’ll stay in the PACU until you’re awake and your pain is under control. Most people go to their room after a few hours in the PACU, but some will need to stay in the PACU overnight for observation.

After your stay in the PACU, a staff member will take you to your hospital room in the inpatient unit. There, your nurse will tell you how to recover from your surgery. Below are examples of ways you can help yourself recover safely.

  • Walk around after surgery. Walking every 2 hours is a good goal. This will help prevent blood clots in your legs.
  • Use your incentive spirometer. This will help your lungs expand, which prevents pneumonia. For more information, please read How to Use Your Incentive Spirometer.

Commonly asked questions: During your hospital stay

Will I have pain after my surgery?

You’ll have some pain after your surgery.

Your doctor and nurse will ask you about your pain often and give you medication to control your pain. At first, you’ll get your pain medication through your epidural catheter or IV line. You’ll be able to control your pain medication using a PCA device. Read the resource Patient-Controlled Analgesia (PCA)for more information.

Your healthcare providers will ask you about your pain often and give you medication as needed. If your pain isn’t relieved, tell one of your healthcare providers. It’s important to control your pain so you can use your incentive spirometer and move around. Controlling your pain will help you recover better.

Some prescription pain medications (such as opioids) may cause constipation (having fewer bowel movements than usual).

How can I prevent constipation?

Talk with your healthcare provider about how to prevent and manage constipation. You can also follow the guidelines below.

  • Go to the bathroom at the same time every day. Your body will get used to going at that time. But, if you feel like you need to go, don’t put it off.
  • Try to use the bathroom 5 to 15 minutes after meals. After breakfast is a good time to go. The reflexes in your colon are strongest at this time.
  • Exercise, if you can. Walking is an excellent form of exercise.
  • Slowly increase the fiber in your diet to 25 to 35 grams per day. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cereals contain fiber. If you have an ostomy or have had recent bowel surgery, check with your doctor or nurse before making any changes in your diet.
  • Both over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to treat constipation. Check with your healthcare provider before taking any medications for constipation, especially if you have an ostomy or have had bowel surgery. Follow the instructions on the label or from your healthcare provider. Examples of over-the-counter medications for constipation include:
    • Docusate sodium (Colace®). This is a stool softener (medication that makes your bowel movements softer) that causes few side effects. You can use it to help prevent constipation. Don’t take it with mineral oil.
    • Polyethylene glycol (MiraLAX®). This is a laxative (medication that causes bowel movements) that causes few side effects. Take it with 8 ounces (1 cup) of a liquid. Only take it if you’re already constipated.
    • Senna (Senokot®). This is a stimulant laxative, which can cause cramping. It’s best to take it at bedtime. Only take it if you’re already constipated.
  • If any of these medications cause diarrhea (loose, watery bowel movements), stop taking them.
    You can start again if needed.
  • If you haven’t had a bowel movement in 2 days, tell your healthcare provider.

Will I be able to eat?

You won’t be allowed to eat for the first day or 2 following the surgery. Then you’ll be on a clear liquid diet. After that, your diet will progress to a regular diet as tolerated. You’ll be able to eat smaller amounts of food than prior to your surgery. You’ll be encouraged to eat smaller meals, more frequently throughout the day. For more information, ready Eating After Your Gastrectomy.

Eating a balanced diet high in protein will help you heal after surgery. Your diet should include a healthy protein source at each meal, as well as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. For more tips on increasing the amount of calories and protein in your diet, read the resource Eating Well During Your Cancer Treatment. If you have questions about your diet, ask to see a clinical dietitian nutritionist.

How long will I be in the hospital?

Most people are in the hospital for approximately 5 days after having a gastrectomy but this will depend on the exact surgery that is done.

Commonly asked questions: After you leave the hospital

Will I have pain when I am home?

The length of time each person has pain or discomfort varies. You may still have some pain when you go home and will probably be taking pain medication.

Follow these guidelines to help manage your pain at home.

  • Take your medications as directed and as needed.
  • Call your healthcare provider if the medication prescribed for you does not help your pain.
  • Do not drive or drink alcohol while you’re taking prescription pain medication. Some prescription pain medications can make you drowsy (very sleepy). Alcohol can make the drowsiness worse.
  • As your incision(s) heal, you’ll have less pain and need less pain medication. An over-the-counter pain reliever will help with aches and discomfort. Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Advil® or Motrin®) are examples of over-the-counter pain relievers.
    • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for stopping your prescription pain medication.
    • Do not take too much of any medication. Follow the instructions on the label or from your healthcare provider.
    • Read the labels on all the medications you’re taking. This is very important if you’re taking acetaminophen. Acetaminophen is an ingredient in many over-the-counter and prescription medications. Taking too much can harm your liver. Do not take more than one medication that has acetaminophen without talking with a member of your care team.
  • Pain medication should help you get back to your normal activities. Take enough medication to do your activities and exercises comfortably. It’s normal for your pain to increase a little as you start to be more active.
  • Keep track of when you take your pain medication. It works best 30 to 45 minutes after you take it. Taking it when you first have pain is better than waiting for the pain to get worse.

Can I shower?

Yes. Taking a warm shower is relaxing and can help decrease muscle aches. Use soap when you shower and gently wash your incision. Pat the areas dry with a towel after showering, and leave your incision uncovered (unless there is drainage). Call your doctor if you see any redness or drainage from your incision.

Do not take tub baths until you discuss it with your doctor at the first appointment after your surgery.

How do I care for my incision?

The location of your incision will depend on the type of surgery you had. It’s normal to have numbness of the skin below the incision because some of the nerves were cut; this sensation will lessen over time.

  • By the time you are ready to leave the hospital, your surgical incision will have begun to heal.
  • Look at your incision with your nurse before you leave the hospital so you know what it looks like.
  • If any liquid is draining from your incision, you should write down the amount and color. Call your doctor’s office and speak with the nurse about any drainage from your incision.

Change your bandages at least once a day and more often if they become wet with drainage. When there is no longer any drainage coming from your incision, they can be left uncovered.

If you go home with Steri-StripsTM on your incision, they’ll loosen and fall off by themselves. If they haven’t fallen off within 10 days, you may remove them.

If you go home with glue over your sutures (stitches), it will also loosen and peel off, similarly to the Steri-Strips.

If your surgeon uses staples to close your incision, you’ll have them removed at your postoperative visit at the outpatient clinic.

When is it safe for me to drive?

You may resume driving 3 weeks after surgery as long as you are not taking pain medication that may make you drowsy.

What exercises can I do?

Exercise will help you gain strength and feel better. Walking and stair climbing are excellent forms of exercise. Gradually increase the distance you walk. Climb stairs slowly, resting or stopping as needed. Ask your doctor or nurse before starting more strenuous exercises.

When can I lift heavy objects?

Check with your doctor before you do any heavy lifting. Normally, you should not lift anything heavier than 5 pounds for at least 6 weeks. Ask your doctor how long you should avoid heavy lifting.

When is my first appointment after my surgery?

Your first appointment after surgery will be in 1 to 3 weeks after you leave the hospital. Your nurse will give you instructions on how to make this appointment, including the phone number to call.

How can I cope with my feelings?

After surgery for a serious illness, you may have new and upsetting feelings. Many people say they felt weepy, sad, worried, nervous, irritable, and angry at one time or another. You may find that you cannot control some of these feelings. If this happens, it’s a good idea to seek emotional support.

The first step in coping is to talk about how you feel. Family and friends can help. Your nurse, doctor, and social worker can reassure, support, and guide you. It’s always a good idea to let these professionals know how you, your family, and your friends are feeling emotionally. Many resources are available to patients and their families. Whether you are in the hospital or at home, the nurses, doctors, and social workers are here to help you and your family and friends handle the emotional aspects of your illness.

What if I have other questions?

If you have any questions or concerns, please talk with your surgeon or nurse. You can reach them Monday through Friday from to

After , during the weekend, and on holidays, call 212-639-2000 and ask for the doctor on call for your doctor.

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When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider

Contact your healthcare provider if you have:

  • A fever of 101 °F (38.3 °C) or higher
  • Shortness of breath
  • Warmer than normal skin around your incision
  • Increased discomfort in the area
  • Increased redness around your incision
  • New or increased swelling around your incision
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Support Services

This section has a list of support services. They may help you as you get ready for your surgery and recover after your surgery.

As you read through this section, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.

MSK Support Services

Visit the Cancer Types section of MSK’s website at www.mskcc.org/types for more information.

Admitting Office
212-639-7606
Call if you have questions about your hospital admission, such as asking for a private room.

Anesthesia
212-639-6840
Call if you have questions about anesthesia.

Blood Donor Room
212-639-7643
Call for information if you’re interested in donating blood or platelets.

Bobst International Center
888-675-7722
We welcome patients from around the world and offer many services to help. If you’re an international patient, call for help arranging your care.

Counseling Center
646-888-0200
Many people find that counseling helps them. Our counseling center offers counseling for individuals, couples, families, and groups. We can also prescribe medications to help if you feel anxious or depressed. To make an appointment, ask your healthcare provider for a referral or call the number above.

Female Sexual Medicine & Women’s Health Program
646-888-5076
Cancer and cancer treatments can affect your sexual health, fertility, or both. Our Female Sexual Medicine & Women’s Health Program can help with sexual health problems, such as premature menopause or fertility issues. We can help before, during, or after your treatment. Call for more information or to make an appointment.

Food Pantry Program
646-888-8055
We give food to people in need during their cancer treatment. For more information, talk with your healthcare provider or call the number above.

Integrative Medicine Service
www.mskcc.org/integrativemedicine
Our Integrative Medicine Service offers many services to complement (go along with) traditional medical care, including music therapy, mind/body therapies, dance and movement therapy, yoga, and touch therapy. To schedule an appointment for these services, call 646-449-1010.

You can also schedule a consultation with a healthcare provider in the Integrative Medicine Service. They will work with you to come up with a plan for creating a healthy lifestyle and managing side effects. To make an appointment, call 646-608-8550.

Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program
646-888-6024
Cancer and cancer treatments can affect your sexual health, fertility, or both. Our Male Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Program can help with sexual health problems, such as erectile dysfunction (ED). We can help before, during, or after your treatment. Call for more information or to make an appointment.

MSK Library
library.mskcc.org
212-639-7439
You can visit our library website or call to talk with the library reference staff. They can help you find more information about a type of cancer. You can also visit LibGuides on MSK’s library website at libguides.mskcc.org

Nutrition Services
www.mskcc.org/nutrition
212-639-7312
Our Nutrition Service offers nutritional counseling with one of our clinical dietitian nutritionists. Your clinical dietitian nutritionist will talk with you about your eating habits. They can also give advice on what to eat during and after treatment. To make an appointment, ask a member of your care team for a referral or call the number above.

Patient and Caregiver Education
www.mskcc.org/pe
Visit our Patient and Caregiver Education website to search for educational resources, videos, and online programs.

Patient and Caregiver Peer Support Program
212-639-5007
It can be comforting to talk with someone who has been through a treatment like yours. You can talk with a former MSK patient or caregiver through our Patient and Caregiver Peer Support Program. Your conversations are private. They can be in person or over the phone.

Patient Billing
646-227-3378
Call if you have questions about preauthorization with your insurance company. This is also called preapproval.

Patient Representative Office
212-639-7202
Call if you have questions about the Health Care Proxy form or concerns about your care.

Perioperative Nurse Liaison
212-639-5935
Call if you have questions about MSK releasing any information while you’re having surgery.

Private Duty Nurses and Companions
917-862-6373
You can request private nurses or companions to care for you in the hospital and at home. Call for more information.

Resources for Life After Cancer (RLAC) Program
646-888-8106
At MSK, care does not end after your treatment. The RLAC Program is for patients and their families who have finished treatment.

This program has many services. We offer seminars, workshops, support groups, and counseling on life after treatment. We can also help with insurance and employment issues.

Social Work
www.mskcc.org/socialwork
212-639-7020
Social workers help patients, families, and friends deal with common issues for people who have cancer. They provide individual counseling and support groups throughout your treatment. They can help you communicate with children and other family members.

Our social workers can also help refer you to community agencies and programs. They also have information about as financial resources, if you’re having trouble paying your bills.

Spiritual Care
212-639-5982
Our chaplains (spiritual counselors) are available to listen, help support family members, and pray. They can contact community clergy or faith groups, or simply be a comforting companion and a spiritual presence. Anyone can ask for spiritual support. You do not have to have a religious affiliation (connection to a religion).

MSK’s interfaith chapel is located near Memorial Hospital’s main lobby. It’s open 24 hours a day. If you have an emergency, call 212-639-2000. Ask for the chaplain on call.

Tobacco Treatment Program
www.mskcc.org/tobacco
212-610-0507
If you want to quit smoking, the specialists in our Tobacco Treatment Program can help. Call for information.

Virtual Programs
www.mskcc.org/vp
Our Virtual Programs offer online education and support for patients and caregivers. These are live sessions where you can talk or just listen. You can learn about your diagnosis, what to expect during treatment, and how to prepare for your cancer care.

Sessions are private, free, and led by experts. Visit our website for more information about Virtual Programs or to register.

External support services

Access-A-Ride
web.mta.info/nyct/paratran/guide.htm
877-337-2017
In New York City, the MTA offers a shared ride, door-to-door service for people with disabilities who can’t take the public bus or subway.

Air Charity Network
www.aircharitynetwork.org
877-621-7177
Provides travel to treatment centers.

American Cancer Society (ACS)
www.cancer.org
800-ACS-2345 (800-227-2345)
Offers a variety of information and services, including Hope Lodge, a free place for patients and caregivers to stay during cancer treatment.

Cancer and Careers
www.cancerandcareers.org
A resource for education, tools, and events for employees with cancer.

CancerCare
www.cancercare.org
800-813-4673
275 Seventh Avenue (Between West 25th & 26th Streets)
New York, NY 10001
Provides counseling, support groups, educational workshops, publications, and financial assistance.

Cancer Support Community
www.cancersupportcommunity.org
Provides support and education to people affected by cancer.

Caregiver Action Network
www.caregiveraction.org
800-896-3650
Provides education and support for people who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability.

Corporate Angel Network
www.corpangelnetwork.org
866-328-1313
Offers free travel to treatment across the country using empty seats on corporate jets.

Gilda’s Club
www.gildasclubnyc.org
212-647-9700
A place where men, women, and children living with cancer find social and emotional support through networking, workshops, lectures, and social activities.

Good Days
www.mygooddays.org
877-968-7233
Offers financial assistance to pay for copayments during treatment. Patients must have medical insurance, meet the income criteria, and be prescribed medication that’s part of the Good Days formulary.

Healthwell Foundation
www.healthwellfoundation.org
800-675-8416
Provides financial assistance to cover copayments, health care premiums, and deductibles for certain medications and therapies.

Joe’s House
www.joeshouse.org
877-563-7468
Provides a list of places to stay near treatment centers for people with cancer and their families.

LGBT Cancer Project
http://lgbtcancer.com/
Provides support and advocacy for the LGBT community, including online support groups and a database of LGBT-friendly clinical trials.

LIVESTRONG Fertility
www.livestrong.org/we-can-help/fertility-services
855-744-7777
Provides reproductive information and support to cancer patients and survivors whose medical treatments have risks associated with infertility.

Look Good Feel Better Program
www.lookgoodfeelbetter.org
800-395-LOOK (800-395-5665)
This program offers workshops to learn things you can do to help you feel better about your appearance. For more information or to sign up for a workshop, call the number above or visit the program’s website.

National Cancer Institute
www.cancer.gov
800-4-CANCER (800-422-6237)

National Cancer Legal Services Network
www.nclsn.org
Free cancer legal advocacy program.

National LGBT Cancer Network
www.cancer-network.org
Provides education, training, and advocacy for LGBT cancer survivors and those at risk.

Needy Meds
www.needymeds.org
Lists Patient Assistance Programs for brand and generic name medications.

NYRx
www.nyrxplan.com
Provides prescription benefits to eligible employees and retirees of public sector employers in New York State.

Partnership for Prescription Assistance
www.pparx.org
888-477-2669
Helps qualifying patients without prescription drug coverage get free or low-cost medications.

Patient Access Network Foundation
www.panfoundation.org
866-316-7263
Provides assistance with copayments for patients with insurance.

Patient Advocate Foundation
www.patientadvocate.org
800-532-5274
Provides access to care, financial assistance, insurance assistance, job retention assistance, and access to the national underinsured resource directory.

RxHope
www.rxhope.com
877-267-0517
Provides assistance to help people get medications that they have trouble affording.

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Educational Resources

This section has the educational resources mentioned in this guide. They will help you get ready for your surgery and recover after your surgery.

As you read through these resources, write down questions to ask your healthcare provider.

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