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Surgery is a common treatment for the main types of lung cancer. The type of surgery your team recommends is determined by the size of the tumor and other factors. Your doctor may recommend chemotherapy or radiation therapy before surgery to shrink the tumor so it is easier to remove. Chemotherapy or radiation therapy is also common after lung cancer surgery.
Lung cancer surgeries vary in the amount of lung tissue doctors remove and the parts of the lung they target. The lung is made up of sections called lobes. The right side has 3 lobes and the left side has 2. Subdivisions of lobes are called segments. Different lung lobes have different numbers of segments.
The main types of surgery to remove lung cancer are:
Wedge resection Doctors typically use wedge resections to treat the smallest tumors, particularly the ones they know are unlikely to spread. This surgery removes the smallest part of the lobe it is possible to take out.
Segmentectomy In a segmentectomy, your doctor takes out 1 or more segments of a lobe, while still preserving half or more of that lobe.
Lobectomy In a lobectomy, your doctor takes out an entire lobe to remove the cancer. At Stanford about 70% of these surgeries are minimally invasive, which means they only require small incisions. These procedures use techniques called video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) or robotic-assisted surgery.
Sleeve lobectomy In a sleeve lobectomy, doctors take apart the airway and sometimes the main artery in the lung so they can get the tumor out. They then reconnect the lobe, artery, and airway. This allows the surgeon to preserve lung tissue to optimize post-operative lung function.
Pneumonectomy Sometimes a tumor’s location makes it impossible to remove the entire tumor with a lobectomy. In that case, doctors perform a pneumonectomy, removing the entire lung on the side of the tumor.
People who have pneumonectomies may be left with some shortness of breath. Your care team works with you to help you manage this side effect with medicine or techniques such as breathing exercises.