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Lung Cancer Surgery

Dr. Gamliel preparing for surgery.

Surgeons will evaluate the lungs for removal of cancer growths, also known as tumors. There are several different options for surgeons to remove lung tissue. These include a wedge resection, a segmentectomy, a lobectomy, and a pneumonectomy.

  • wedge resection is the removal of the tumor itself that includes some of the surrounding lung tissue or lymph nodes. This is a treatment option considered for early stage disease, specifically where patients have limited lung function.
  • segmentectomy is the removal of a section of the lung and significantly more of the lung tissue surrounding both the tumor and the lymph nodes. Some patients may have health problems that prevent a lobectomy, so the surgeon will assess if a segmentectomy is a suitable alternative to preserve lung function.
  • lobectomy is the removal of one lobe of the lungs while a pneumonectomy is the removal of all lobes of one lung. In general, surgeons try to remove as little lung as needed to eliminate the cancer. However, removal of the lymph nodes and draining the tumor is also important to help reduce the chance of the cancer from recurring. This procedure is the most common surgery performed to treat lung cancer because it removes the entire draining path for tumor cells and gives better assurance that there was not early cancer spread. Those with Stage I, Stage II or Stage IIIA cancer are potential candidates for a lobectomy. Lungs can function normally with the lobes that remain
  • pneumonectomy is the removal of an entire lung. This is only undertaken when there is no other option for removal of the lung cancer. This usually means that the tumor is very central (right next to the heart) and involves the main blood vessels to the lung. 

Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS)

Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) is a minimally invasive surgical technique used to diagnose and treat problems in your chest, as well as alleviate symptoms of lung cancer. It can be used in a variety of procedures, including biopsy, surgery, or removing excess fluid or air from around the lungs. Since only very small incisions are needed, healing is fast with minimal pain and complications.

In many patients for whom surgery is an option, VATS may be the preferred treatment. VATS is generally used in non-small cell lung cancer patients with stage I or II cancer, and select stage III patients. 

VATS offers patients a number of advantages over traditional open approach:

  • less pain after the operation
  • a better chance of breathing normally 
  • a better quality of life

While hospital stay can be prolonged by minor problems or complications, when discharged, VATS patients notice greater levels of independence and faster return to their preoperative activity levels than thoracotomy patients. Ultimately, no matter which surgical approach you choose, it is important to be as active as possible. Be sure to ask your doctor when you can resume normal activities. Returning to an active daily life after surgery is the ultimate goal.

Location Information

For a physician referral, please call 1-877-715-HOPE.

MedStar Bel Air Medical Campus
12 MedStar Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center
The Angelos Center for Lung Diseases
9103 Franklin Square Drive
Baltimore, MD 21237

MedStar Good Samaritan Hospital
5601 Loch Raven Boulevard
Baltimore, MD 21239

MedStar Harbor Hospital
3001 South Hanover St.
Baltimore, MD 21225 


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