Lung Cancer Surgery

    About the Treatment

    Lung cancer can be defined as a disease that results in the rapid increase of abnormal cells in the lung tissue. In a lung cancer surgery, a part or complete removal of the lung might be carried out by making a cut on one side of the patient's chest (thorax). This procedure is termed as thoracotomy. The surgeon who is performing a surgical process for lung cancer which involves this approach usually avoids the sites in the chest that comprise of the heart and the spinal cord. Post the cut is made between the ribs, all or a part of the lung is removed on the basis of the area, size, and type of lung cancer which is present.

Before the procedure, the surgeon will explain everything regarding the operation and what can be expected after the procedure is done. Insight into what to consume and what not to after the procedure shall also be given.
All the patient's queries will be answered, and an introduction to the surgical team may also be given. After the queries are cleared, the patient is asked to sign a form which acts as consent to the operation.
Following tests shall be done to check the general health of the patient:

  • Blood tests
  • ECG (electrocardiogram)
  • In case the patient has some heart disorders, few more tests will be recommended. These extra tests may also include an ECG while the patient is exercising.

As a lung cancer surgery also includes a procedure where a part or the entire lung is removed, it has to be made sure that the patient will breathe comfortably after the procedure. This concern leads to some lung function tests.
Before the surgery, a physiotherapist and a doctor shall teach the patient few breathing and leg exercises to follow after the operation. This is to prevent chest infections and blood clots after the procedure as the patient usually does not move around much post surgery.
Some medication might be given to prevent blood clots.

The lung cancer surgery varies as per the level and area of cancer. Below mentioned are the procedure types that are followed to treat lung cancer:

  • Wedge resection (segmentectomy): In this procedure, the surgeon takes out a small wedge-shaped piece of the lung that comprise cancer and a margin of healthy tissue that surrounds cancer. This is mostly done when the patient's lung function decreases at a high rate by eliminating a lobe of the lung (lobectomy). However, in the lobectomy procedure, the risk of returned lung cancer is high.
  • Lobectomy: In this procedure, the surgeon removes an entire lobe that comprises cancer. A human body has three lobes in the right lung and two lobes on the left. The patient's lung functions with the remaining lobes even after the removal of a lobe.
  • Pneumonectomy: This procedure is an intense one as it involves the removal of an entire lung that comprises cancer. A pneumonectomy procedure is carried out only when required as it has huge effects on the overall lung functioning of a patient.
  • Sleeve resection: This surgical process involves the removal of the cancerous part in the bronchus and reconnecting of the healthy ends. The bronchus is a part of the windpipe that spreads on each side of the lungs.

After a lung cancer surgery, chest tubes are utilized to drain fluids and blood out of the patient's chest cavity and to assist in refilling the lung with air.
The VATS or the video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery might be carried out before or in replacement of a thoracotomy procedure. This surgery involves the insertion of a long, thin video-scope and small surgical instruments into the chest area through small incisions made between the ribs.

The patient will be required to stay in the hospital after the surgery. The days of hospital stay depends on the following:

  • The remaining lung function
  • Overall health prior to the surgery
  • The type of surgery

On the basis of the type of procedure carried out, the patient's chest area may be painful from weeks to months post surgery. Medicines are prescribed and advises are given by the doctors to help in pain relaxation.
One or more chest tubes are placed post surgery on the chest area to drain the chest cavity of fluid and blood that is present when a lung surgery is completed. The attached tubes also assist in refilling the lungs with air.
To improve the lung functioning post surgery, a respiratory therapist shall assist the patient with different breathing treatments such as deep breathing, etc. Medicines shall also be prescribed for faster recovery.

  • Risks from general anesthesia
  • Bleeding
  • Air leak in the lung
  • Damage to the blood vessels, nerves in the chest, heart, or lungs
  • Constant pain in the chest wall
  • Infection

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