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Surgery offers lung cancer patients with early disease (stage 1 and 2) the greatest chance of a cure. Surgery is performed by a cardiothoracic surgeon, under a general anaesthetic. There are a number of factors that the surgeon will consider before offering surgery. These include – the stage of the tumour, the size and location of the tumour, a favourable PET scan result, the overall well being and fitness of the patient, and their ability to live well with the lung tissue removed. Other disease processes such as diabetes, heart diseases etc are taken into account as well as the ability to tolerate a general anaesthetic.   Age does not preclude surgery but careful preoperative planning and post operative care is required.

The amount of lung tissue taken depends on the location of the tumour and the individual characteristics of each patient.  – it may be one lobe, two lobes of the right lung, a complete lung or in some cases only a segment of a lobe. Lymph nodes are also taken out from the surrounding lung area for examination under the microscope called histopathology. There are some patients who will benefit from chemotherapy before surgery. Others may require chemotherapy after surgery – this is determined by the histopathology results.

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Risks and side effects:

As with any surgery, lung surgery carries some risk. The major ones are bleeding, wound and chest  infection. In the period after surgery, you will have tubes draining air and blood from the chest cavity. It is usual for these to be removed within a few days but sometimes they must remain for longer.  Good post operative care will minimise the expected effects of pain and enable patients to do effective physiotherapy thus preventing chest infections. Good post operative care also enables early mobilisation after the surgery.  You will be encouraged to take regular pain medication so that you can do the physiotherapy exercises and mobilise freely as soon as possible after surgery.

Although this is major surgery, the risk of death related to surgery is very low.  Major risks vary   between patients and the sort of surgery required has a substantial influence. It is important to discuss this with your surgeon.