Lung cancer surgery is the treatment of a lung cancer by removing the portion of the lung that contains a tumor. Surgery for cancer is usually limited to early-stage tumors that have not spread beyond the lung. The two main type of lung cancer surgery are thoracotomy and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).
Surgery for lung cancer is a major operation, and not all patients are candidates. Prior to surgery, it is important to evaluate the patient’s heart and lung function to ensure that they will be able to tolerate the stress of the surgery.
During the operation, the segment of lung containing the tumor will be removed. The amount of lung tissue that is removed depends on the location of the tumor, as well as the overall condition of the patient. Also, biopsies of lymph nodes will be taken to determine if there has been any spread of tumor. If so, chemotherapy may be recommended after surgery. At the end of the operation, the incisions will be closed, and chest tubes will be placed to remove blood, fluid, and air from the chest cavity. These sterile plastic tubes are connected to canisters that sit at the side of the bed, allowing your doctor to measure the amount of drainage. Chest tubes are usually removed after a few days, but can remain longer if persistent air or fluid is draining from the chest cavity.
Once the chest tubes are removed, and the patient is able to perform normal daily function, he or she will be ready to go home. There will be some activity limitations for several weeks, but most people are back to normal within one month.