Cancer (malignant tumors)

More people die from lung cancer each year than any other cancer in the US with more than 6 million cases diagnosed annually. Though not all lung cancers are able to be removed, those that are have the best chance for cure.

In order to determine if a cancer is able to be removed, it needs to be staged and the patient needs to be able to tolerate having part or all of the lung removed.

The most common studies to stage lung cancer and determine if these could be removed are:

  • X-ray of the chest
  • CT scan
  • Metabolic imaging studies (e.g. PET scan)
  • Invasive procedures for biopsies: Mediastinoscopy, ultrasound guided endobronchial biopsy, VATS biopsy

Pre-operative evaluation of the patient’s lung function involves a detailed history and physical performed by the treating surgeon and breathing tests known as Pulmonary Function Tests (PFT).

Our surgeons at Phoenix Cardiac Surgery are experienced with the surgical treatment of lung cancer. Our goal is to completely remove the malignant areas, while preserving as much lung function as possible.

What is a malignant lung tumor?

A malignant lung tumor is also known as lung cancer. The two major types of lung cancer are non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. If left untreated, the cancer can spread, or metastasize, to other areas of the body, leading eventually to organ failure.

What is the treatment for lung cancer?

If you are diagnosed with lung cancer, your oncologist will create a treatment plan, which may include lifestyle changes, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted drug therapy, and surgery. Surgery may be the only required treatment for early-stage, localized tumors, while more advanced cancers may require surgery in conjunction with other treatments.

We work closely with lung specialists, medical and radiation oncologists to develop individualized treatment strategies for our patients.

Lung cancers that can be removed are done so through incisions on the side of the chest. For smaller tumors, Video-Assisted Thoracoscopy (VATS) can be utilized. VATS resections are performed with small incisions and a camera.

Learn more about VATS

Not all tumors can be resected safely with a minimally invasive approach. In these cases, a larger incision on the patient’s side is created and the ribs are carefully separated to provide access for the operating surgeon. This is called a thoracotomy.

Learn more about thoractotomy

What happens during surgery?

If your oncologist determines that surgery is recommended, you will be placed under general anesthesia, and your surgeon will create an incision on the side of the chest to remove the tumor and chest lymph nodes. The amount of lung removed depends on the size and location of the cancer.

Lymph nodes are removed so they can be checked by the hospital pathologist to see if the cancer has spread. This helps determine if chemotherapy and radiation therapy are recommended. Following surgery, you’ll stay in the hospital for about 4 to 7 days before being released to continue to recover at home.