Lung Cancer Surgery – Life Can Get Much Better

Lung Cancer Surgery – Life Can Get Much Better

Going Through Lung Cancer Surgery

Cancers of the lung are divided into stages. A staging system allows doctors to develop treatment plans and an accurate prognosis. The location and stage of a tumor in the lungs determine if it is operable. When lung cancer surgery is an option, it is usually followed by additional treatments in both small-cell and non small-cell lung cancers (SCLC & NSCLC).


This surgery removes the malignant part of the lung through an incision in the chest. There are three sub-classifications of this procedure. A ‘segmentectomy’ only removes the cancerous lung tissue and a modest amount of surrounding healthy tissue. According to WebMD, recurrence is highest with a segmentectomy, but it prevents a significant loss of lung functionality.

A lobectomy removes the entire lobe of a lung. There are two on the left side and three on the right, so these organs will continue to operate. Surgeons remove the entire lobe to ensure the cancer is completely removed. In extreme cases, a ‘pneumonectomy’ is performed to remove a whole lung. Lungs function at a reduced capacity after this surgery.

New technology allows surgeons to use VATS to operate on a tumor. VATS, or ‘video-assisted thorascopic surgery’ is less invasive then a thoracotomy. It is useful for diagnosing the cancer, taking tissue samples and when performing a segmentectomy. After surgery, patients will be assessed for lung function and general health before being released.

Post-Operative Care

A thoracotomy leaves the chest area sore for a long time and chest tubes will be inserted to drain the build-up of blood and fluid. The fluid is suctioned by a machine and drained to containers. Chest tubes are removed when the drainage stops. Although the tubes are often removed within a week, it takes several weeks to recover from this operation.

Respiratory therapists work with post-op patients to improve lung function. Methods include deep breathing exercises coupled with medications to open the airway. Additional care may be needed for a lobectomy. Studies have shown that surgery increases survival rates, but complications such as bleeding or persisting pain do happen.

Before recommending surgery as an option, a patient’s lung function and general cardiac health are evaluated.

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