Surgical resection remains the first-line treatment for many lung cancer patients.
Depending on the size and stage of the cancer, surgery may be performed to remove the tumor and some normal tissue around it, to remove a lobe of one lung, to remove one whole lung, or to remove part of the bronchus (the large air passage leading to the lung).
To prevent the cancer from coming back, patients may receive radiation or chemotherapy after surgery, even if all the cancer that can be seen at that time has been removed.
Surgery may sometimes be used to help determine the type of lung cancer and whether the lymph nodes contain cancer.
Unlike the majority of hospitals, where general or cardiac surgeons perform thoracic procedures, Duke is home to several thoracic surgeons who focus exclusively on lung cancer and general thoracic oncology surgery. Our surgeons perform a high volume of procedures for chest malignancies and repair each year.
A Duke study showed that patients operated on by surgeons who do not routinely remove cancer from the lungs may be at a higher risk for complications. The study also found that mortality in teaching hospitals is slightly lower than in non-teaching institutions.
Duke is also a national leader in minimally invasive surgical procedures and surgical alternatives that offer patients faster and less painful recoveries.
Thoracoscopic lobectomy is a minimally invasive procedure in which surgeons remove a cancerous lobe through an incision only 4.5 centimeters long -- roughly two inches. Aided by a tiny camera scope, surgeons are able to operate without having to make a long incision around the chest and use a retractor to spread the ribs (as in traditional lung surgery).
Moreover, studies have shown that patients undergoing the minimally invasive procedure had less pain and inflammation, spent less time in the hospital, and returned to full activity sooner. Patients with early-stage lung cancer are candidates for thoracoscopic lobectomy.
Several minimally invasive treatments are available for symptom management and for diagnostic purposes. Learn more about specialized treatments for lung cancer.
Learn how to make an appointment at the Duke Cancer Institute.