Surgery is used to remove the cancer cells from the lungs. It is primarily used for early stage lung cancer, but can sometimes be used in more advanced stages of the disease following chemotherapy or combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
The doctor may remove a small part of the lung (a wedge resection), an entire lobe of the lung (lobectomy), or the entire lung (pneumonectomy). The amount of lung removed depends on several factors, including the size and location of the tumor, whether lymph nodes have cancer in them, and how well the lungs are functioning. Not all lung cancers are amenable to surgery, and some are initially treated with chemotherapy and radiation rather than surgery.
A thoracotomy is a surgical method for opening the chest wall in order to access the lungs. The surgeon makes an incision along the back in a C-shaped manner, and the chest wall is opened. The surgeon removes the tissue and/or tumor from the lungs or works with other structures in the chest as necessary. So the lungs will re-inflate after surgery, one or more catheters (chest tubes) are inserted to drain air and blood from the space between the lungs and chest wall.
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Lung cancer—for patients. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: http://www.cancer.gov/types/lung. Accessed September 17, 2014.
Last reviewed September 2015 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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