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Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Surgery for lung cancer

surgical oncology

Surgery for lung cancer

In a thoracotomy, the surgeon opens up the chest cavity to gain access to the lungs. An incision is made in the side of the chest, and the ribs are spread apart, allowing the surgeon to remove cancerous tissue from the lungs.

Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS): VATS is a minimally invasive technology used to perform a lobectomy or wedge resection without opening the chest. This thoracotomy procedure involves inserting a long, thin tube with an attached camera (thoracoscope) and small surgical instruments into the chest. Using images taken by the camera, the surgeon removes portions of the lung that contain cancerous tissue. VATS typically offers a quicker recovery time and less pain than other types of lung surgery, because no large incision or movement of the ribs is needed. VATS may also be used to biopsy lung tissue and to confirm a lung cancer diagnosis. This type of procedure is called a diagnostic thoracoscopy. 

Robotic-assisted thoracic surgery: Robotic surgery is another minimally invasive approach to treating lung cancer. The instruments have greater ranges of motion, allowing for more delicate dissection. The recovery time and pain levels are similar to those resulting from VATS.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) surgeons perform four types of surgery to treat lung cancer: 

  • Wedge resection: This procedure is used to remove cancerous tissue from the lung, typically in diagnosing or treating metastasis.
  • Segmentectomy: This surgery is designed to remove cancerous tissue from a lung segment when a lobectomy cannot be performed. The lungs have various numbers of segments: three in the right upper lobe, two in the right middle lobe, five in the right lower lobe, four in the left lower lobe and four in the left upper lobe.
  • Lobectomy: In this procedure, an entire lobe is removed from the lung. The right lung has three lobes, and the left lung has two.
  • Pneumonectomy: This is the removal of an entire lung.

Lung cancer surgeries