Lung Cancer Surgery

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Types of Lung Cancer

Primary lung cancers are cancers that come from cells within the lung. There are many different types of primary lung cancer, which are commonly separated into “small cell” and “non-small cell” lung cancer. The main reason for this separation is that small cell lung cancer is not typically treated with surgery, and radiation and chemotherapy are the mainstays of therapy.

In addition to “primary” lung cancer, where the cancer comes from cells in the lung, there are often “secondary” lung cancers that come from cancers at distant sites in the body. The lungs receive a large amount of blood flow, which is why many types of cancers often spread to the lungs even though they began in a different part of the body. The decision of whether to perform lung surgery is based on both the type of cancer cell, the location of the cancer, and the extent of the lung cancer. This decision is best discussed with your physician and an experienced lung surgeon.

Treatment of Lung Cancer

If your physician finds symptoms or x-ray signs that are concerning for lung cancer, a lung biopsy is typically ordered to determine if cancer cells are present. If there is cancer present in one area (localized) and has not spread, it may be possible to perform a lung resection operation to remove the cancer. There are multiple types of lung cancer resection operations, including pneumectomy (removal of one lung), lobectomy (removal of one of the lobes of the lung), and wedge resection (removal of a portion of the lung). It is possible to remove an entire lung from a patient because many patients have enough lung capacity to get by with one lung alone. Each patient is different, and a physician will perform tests to determine how much lung tissue can be safely removed without a dangerous effect on breathing. Some patients may not be candidates for lung cancer resection due to poor respiratory function.

Minimally Invasive Lung Cancer Surgery

Minimally invasive surgical techniques may be used to complete lung surgery, including video assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). VATS uses small incisions, where an endoscope (instrument with a fiber-optic camera at the end) and small instruments are passed through the small incisions to complete the surgery. The small incisions have a benefit of shorter recovery time and less pain and discomfort when compared to a full thoracotomy (large incision in the chest wall). Patients typically stay in the hospital for around 1 to 3 days after a VATS procedure. Despite the advantages, not all patients are suitable for VATS. Some operations may require a large operating window to successfully complete the operation. The decision to perform VATS is complicated and should be made by a lung surgeon with extensive experience in thoracoscopic surgery.

If you have any questions regarding lung cancer surgery, please contact us to set up a consultation with one of our surgeons.