Minimally invasive surgery available for lung cancer

August 25, 2011 By James Flaherty, M.D.

Last year, more than 220,000 new cases of lung cancer were expected. Lung cancer is the second leading cancer, with non-small lung cancer the most common lung cancer. Smoking is the primary cause of lung cancer.

While not everyone with lung cancer has symptoms, possible indicators of non-small lung cancer include a nagging cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, wheezing, mucus with blood, hoarse voice, and fatigue.

If you see your physician about symptoms like these he or she will likely order medical tests. First and foremost would be a physical and discussion of your medical history. Tissue, blood and urine tests may follows, and possibly a chest X-ray. Depending on X-ray results, a CT scan may be ordered to get a more precise view of your chest. Further tests or procedures may be ordered.

For some cases of non-small lung cancer, surgery to remove the cancer may be an option. One such surgery now available is video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) lobectomy. This minimally invasive surgical approach removes the cancerous portion of the lung, known as a lobe.

For this procedure, a three-inch incision is made to the chest through which the surgeon removes the cancerous lobe and surrounding lymph nodes. Two other small incisions are made for passage of surgical tools.

Patient advantages with this type of surgery vs. the traditional, open surgery typically are a quicker recovery and less post-operative pain. At The Hospital of Central Connecticut, a VATS lobectomy patient averages a three- to four-day hospital stay and a two-week recovery. If the lung cancer is at an early stage, usually no further treatment is needed. But for cancer at a later stage, chemotherapy and sometimes radiation therapy are added.

Dr. James Flaherty is a member of The Hospital of Central Connecticut (HOCC) medical staff. For referrals to HOCC physicians, please contact our free Need-A-Physician referral service by phone at 800.321.6244 or online.