Thoracic (Lung Cancer) Oncology
Lung Cancer Treatment - Surgery
Every cancer is different and each patient is unique. We have put together one of the nation's best team of cancer specialists -- so you can get the best possible diagnosis and treatment plan designed specifically for you.
The Comprehensive Cancer Center at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center is proud to be one of only 45 in the United States designated as "comprehensive" by the National Cancer Institute.
After our multidisciplinary group of cancer specialists carefully reviews your case, they will develop a treatment plan designed specifically for you, ensuring that you get the most up-to-date care and access to the medical center's latest clinical trials. This means that different cancer specialists, including those with experience in surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, will discuss the best treatment plan for you.
Am I a Candidate for Lung Cancer Surgery? What Types of Surgery are Available?
Treatment depends on the type of lung cancer disease you have, its location and how advanced it is. Most lung cancer treatment plans include some combination of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
If you do have a cancer that responds well to surgery, your surgeon will discuss different options with you. Your plan may include surgery to remove the tumor, part of your lung or your entire lung, depending on where your cancer is located.
Surgery is an effective treatment option if you have:
- Non-small cell lung cancer that has not yet spread to other organs
- Tumors that originate in or are invading your chest wall or diaphragm
- Tumors in your esophagus
- Tumors in the center of your chest (mediastinal tumors)
- Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often combined with surgery for certain types of lung cancers.
Are There Procedures I Need Before I Have Surgery?
There are two procedures that may be performed before your surgery at the Comprehensive Cancer Center:
Bronchoscopy - This allows your surgeon to examine the main airways inside your lungs or take tissue samples (biopsies). Your surgeon uses a small videoscope (bronchoscope) that may go through your mouth or nose. It may be done before your surgery day, but it is usually performed again just prior to surgery.
Mediastinoscopy - The mediastinum is the area located between your lungs. It contains parts of your body such as the heart, thymus, esophagus, trachea, large blood vessels and numerous lymph nodes. Your surgeon makes a small cut in your neck and a small videoscope (mediastinoscope) is inserted to see the upper portion of your chest. Lymph node biopsies are taken to help in staging the cancer. This may be performed as an outpatient procedure before your surgery.
Are There Minimally Invasive Surgeries for Lung Cancer?
There are two options for minimally invasive surgery at the Comprehensive Cancer Center:
Robotic-assisted thoracic surgery - This procedure uses the most advanced technology currently available. Surgery is performed through four or five tiny cuts between your ribs. This means you avoid a large incision and the chance that your ribs will be spread apart. Your surgeon controls the robotic system, which makes small, precise movements of tiny instruments inside your body.
The benefits of robot-assisted surgery versus traditional open surgery include:
- Lower rate of complications
- Less blood loss
- Shorter hospital stay
- Less pain
- Faster return to normal quality of life
Video-assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) - VATS is performed with a small videoscope (thoracoscope) that uses small incisions and specialized instruments. This procedure typically results in less pain and quicker recovery times than a traditional thoracotomy.
If you need lung surgery, your surgeon will consider a minimally invasive option first. However, some procedures are still best performed using a traditional “open” technique.
If you need lung surgery, your surgeon will consider a minimally invasive option first. However, some procedures are still best performed using a traditional "open" technique.
What are Some of the Traditional Surgical Options for Lung Cancer?
Thoracotomy - A cut is made along the side of your chest, and your ribs are spread apart so your surgeon can better see your lungs. The amount of lung removed will depend on the type, size and location of the abnormal area(s).
Segmentectomy - This is a lung-sparing resection performed for certain benign (non-malignant) lesions and on select patients with lung cancer. Your surgeon will remove the part of your lung where the tumor is growing and any margins around the tumor that may have
Radio frequency ablation for lung tumors (RFA) - This procedure removes an entire lung. It is commonly performed if the cancer has spread throughout your lung or the abnormal area is centrally located. Before the surgery, your surgeon will make sure that your other lung is strong enough to breathe for your body.
Wedge resection - During this procedure, only a small part of your lung is removed. It is usually a triangle-shaped piece of the lung where the tumor is growing. Wedge resection is performed if the abnormal area is benign or small and located on the edge of the lung.
Lobectomy - The lungs have multiple lobes — three lobes on the right and two lobes on the left. In this procedure, an entire lobe of the lung is removed.
Pneumonectomy - This procedure removes an entire lung. It is commonly performed if the cancer has spread throughout your lung or the abnormal area is centrally located. Before the surgery, your surgeon will make sure that your other lung is strong enough to breathe for