Thoracic Surgery for Lung Cancer
Removing the tumor with surgery may be an option for some lung cancers, especially cancer that is in an early stage or has not yet spread to other organs. Your physician may perform tests to check the function of your heart or other organs to determine whether you are healthy enough for surgery. They may also perform a pulmonary function test to be sure you will have enough healthy tissue left after surgery. Surgery may be used with additional treatment, like chemotherapy.
Types of Lung Surgery
The surgery used to treat your lung cancer will depend on a variety of factors, including the location of the tumor and your overall health. Different types of surgery include:
- Thoracotomies are done through a large surgical incision between the ribs in the side of the chest or the back and require general anesthesia. You will most likely spend five to seven days in the hospital following surgery. These surgeries include:
- Pneumonectomy: This surgery removes an entire lung and is sometimes used for tumors close to the center of the chest.
- Lobectomy: This surgery, often performed on non-small cell lung cancer, removes the lobe of the lung where the cancer is located.
- Segmentectomy or wedge restriction: Part of the lobe containing the cancer is removed. If you do not have enough lung function to remove the entire lobe, this surgery may be used.
- ·Sleeve resection: This surgery removes a tumor in a lobe of the lung and part of the main airway, and then reattaches the ends of the airways and any remaining lobes. This may be done instead of a pneumonectomy to preserve lung function.
- Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) may be used to treat early-stage lung cancers. This surgery uses smaller incisions and usually requires a shorter hospital stay. Robotically-assisted thoracic surgery (RATS) is a similar procedure done using a robotic system; the surgeon will sit at a control panel and move robotic arms to operate through the small incisions.
Risks and Side Effects of Surgery for Lung Cancer
Surgery for lung cancer is a major procedure. All surgeries have potential risks and complications, so your physician will help you determine whether your overall health and the extent of the surgery needed makes surgery a good option for your treatment plan.
During or directly after surgery, you may experience a reaction to the anesthesia, excess bleeding, blood clots, infection, or pneumonia.
Recovery can take weeks to months. The area near your incision may hurt, and your activity may be limited for a month or two. If your lungs are otherwise healthy, you will most likely be able to return to normal activities after recovery. If you have another lung disease, you may experience shortness of breath with some levels of activity.