Surgery for lung cancer can often be curative, when it is caught in the earlier stages. Having an understanding of when surgery is most effective and what it entails can help you discuss with your cancer care team if this is the best option for you. If you have cancer, then chemotherapy is a very likely outcome. This is a fantastic resource about chemo side effects for anyone with chemotherapy in their future.
Several things are considered when deciding if surgery is the best option for treating lung cancer. These include:
Surgery is most commonly done as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. Since small cell lung cancer tends to spread early, surgery is usually not effective except for very small tumors, and is often better treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation.
Surgery is most effective for those with stage 1, stage 2, and stage 3A small-cell lung cancer. Stage 3B and stage 4 cancer are often treated with a combination of radiation and chemotherapy. With stages 1B to 3A cancers, surgery is often combined with chemotherapy and/or radiation.
3. The location of the cancer
If a tumor is close to a vital organ, such as the heart, treatments other than surgery may be considered safer regardless of the stage.
4. General health/lung function
Your general state of health, other medical conditions, and lung function can determine if a surgical procedure is relatively safe for you.
The Risks of Lung Cancer Surgery
Risks from lung cancer surgery include damage to structures in or near the lungs, general risks related to surgery, and risks from general anesthesia. Your surgeon and anesthesiologist will discuss these risks with you prior to surgery. The most common risks include:
* Collapse of a lung (pneumothorax)
* Damage to nearby structures such as the heart
* Risks from general anesthesia
* Blood clots
Facts About Lung Cancer Surgery
- Surgery is the preferred treatment for patients with early stage NSCLC. Unfortunately, 60-80% of all patients who have advanced or metastatic disease are not suitable for surgery.
- People who have NSCLC that has not spread can tolerate surgery provided they have adequate lung function.
- A technique called cryosurgery is sometimes used for NSCLC. In cryosurgery, the tumor is frozen, which destroys it. This treatment is mainly for relief of fatigue.
- Cure rates for small peripheral cancers are around 80%.
- The recovery period can be several weeks or even months.