Lung Cancer Surgery

One of the most common ways to treat lung cancer is surgery. Surgery involves removing cancerous lung tissue from your body. This treatment can be successful in improving a patient’s life expectancy after a lung cancer diagnosis. Learn more about surgery options and how Lung Cancer Group may be able to help you pay for treatment.

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About Surgery for Lung Cancer

Lung cancer surgerySurgery is a common lung cancer treatment option for some patients depending on the stage, the type of lung cancer they have, and their overall health. It involves removing lung cancer cells from the body by taking out all or part of a lung.

This treatment is often used for both types of lung cancer — non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) — in their early stages.

There are two approaches to lung cancer surgery:

  • Thoracotomy: This is a more invasive approach for lung cancer surgery, requiring an incision along the chest and ribs and spreading the ribs to reach the lungs. Once surgery is complete on the lungs, the doctors will repair the chest wall and close the incision.
  • Minimally Invasive Surgery: This involves doctors making a handful of small incisions and using tiny cameras and instruments to perform surgery on the affected lung tissue. It is also called video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).

Depending on the patient’s overall health and the stage of lung cancer, doctors will choose between these two approaches and develop a surgical treatment plan. It is also likely patients will get additional types of treatment, such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

Talk to your health care provider to learn whether lung cancer surgery is a good option for you. Surgery can often be one of the best ways to extend your lung cancer life expectancy.

At Lung Cancer Group, we can help you afford medical care and other expenses. Get started with a free case review now to learn more.

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Types of Surgery for Lung Cancer

There are many types of lung cancer surgeries, including the following.


One of the most common types of lung cancer surgery, lobectomies remove one section of the lung affected by cancer cells. These sections of the lungs are called “lobes.”

The right lung has three lobes and the left lung has two lobes. If the cancer is only in the right lung, some surgeons may perform a bilobectomy, which involves removing two nearby lobes.

Another type of lobectomy surgery is a sleeve resection. This involves removing one cancerous lobe and a portion of the airways leading to that part of the lung.

These surgeries can be performed through thoracotomy or through minimally invasive approaches.

Segmentectomy and Wedge Resection

Each lung can be divided into between 8 and 10 segments. If the lung cancer tumors have not spread throughout the lungs, a segmentectomy is done.

It can be a great lung-sparing surgical treatment for patients in the early stages of lung cancer.

Similar to a segmentectomy, a wedge resection removes a small section of the lung. It can be a great approach for removing a tumor and any surrounding tissue.


This surgery removes the entire lung affected by lung cancer. It is more invasive and may not be a suitable treatment option for all patients.

Pneumonectomies are also used to treat mesothelioma that develops in the lining of the lungs.

Need help paying for treatment? Lung Cancer Group can help if your lung cancer is caused by asbestos. Contact us today to see if you’re eligible.

What to Expect After Lung Cancer Surgery

Each lung cancer surgery will require unique recovery times, but most patients can expect to spend multiple hours in surgery and an inpatient hospital stay.

During your stay, doctors will monitor you for any side effects or complications.

Once you have returned home, it is important to follow all doctor recommendations to recover from surgery. You can also expect several follow-up appointments to see how successful the surgery was and if any other lung cancer treatments are needed.

Side Effects of Lung Cancer Surgery

Like other lung cancer treatments, lung cancer surgeries can cause some side effects.

These may include:

  • Fatigue: Most people feel tired for several weeks while they recover. Tell your nurse or doctor if the tiredness continues for more than a few weeks.
  • Infection: While your body is healing from surgery, your immune system may be weakened and be more prone to infection from viruses and bacteria.
  • Pain: Your chest and other body parts may hurt for months after surgery.
  • Reduced lung function: Lung cancer surgery can lead to reduced lung function, making it more difficult to breathe and perform physical activities. Doctors may have you do breathing exercises to strengthen your lungs after surgery.
  • Surgery complications: Some people suffer post-surgical complications, including a collapsed lung or air leak. If this happens, your doctor may give you a chest drain to help the lung expand.

How Does Surgery Affect Lung Cancer Prognosis?

Lung cancer surgery can improve your prognosis (expected health outcome) because the cancer tumors are extracted from your body. It’s likely that surgery will be more effective if the cancer hasn’t yet spread to nearby lymph nodes or body parts (metastasized).

For example, a study published in the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery in 2020 found that lung cancer patients who underwent a lobectomy had a 10-year survival rate of over 80%. This means that 8 out of 10 patients who received this surgery lived for longer than 10 years after their diagnosis.

Other benefits of lung cancer surgery include:

  • Boosting the effectiveness of other lung cancer treatments
  • Preventing lung cancer tumors from spreading
  • Reducing lung cancer symptoms such as breathlessness and nausea

Talk to your health care team to learn more about your lung cancer prognosis and how surgery can help you.

Treatment is the best way to improve your life expectancy with lung cancer, and we can help you pay for it. Get started with a free case review today.

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Surgery vs. Other Lung Cancer Treatments

In addition to surgery, your oncologist may prescribe additional lung cancer treatments.

These other treatments may include:

  • Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill rapidly growing lung cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy or radiotherapy uses radiation to kill or control cancerous cells. Modern radiation therapy aims beams directly at the lung tumors while protecting healthy tissues from high radiation doses.
  • Immunotherapy drugs support the immune system to improve the immune response against cancer cells.

Which treatments will be best suited for you depends on your health, lung cancer type and stage, and other factors.

Notably, the American Cancer Society (ACS) notes that fewer than 5% of SCLC patients can safely get lung cancer surgeries, meaning the other treatments are often a better option for them.

Get Help Paying for Lung Cancer Surgery

Treatment for lung cancer can cost more than $140,000 without insurance. This can be devastating for many families.

Thankfully, Lung Cancer Group may be able to help if a lung cancer diagnosis can be linked to asbestos exposure.

Our knowledgeable and compassionate patient advocates can connect you with resources to help you fight for the financial assistance you need.

Call (877) 446-5767 to learn more about how we can help you.

FAQs About Surgery for Lung Cancer

What is the most common surgery for lung cancer?

Various surgeries are commonly used to treat lung cancer, including a lobectomy, segmentectomy or wedge resection, and pneumonectomy.

The best surgery type for you depends on your lung cancer type, stage, and overall health.

Surgery for lung cancer has relatively high success rates. In fact, a majority of patients who receive surgical treatment do not have their cancer return.

About 64% of patients who received lung-sparing surgeries or more invasive lobectomies were still cancer-free 5 years later, according to the National Cancer Institute.

It depends. Surgeries for each patient will vary, but many take several hours.

After surgery, patients will need to remain in the hospital for several days or weeks before they can continue recovery at home.

Lung Cancer Group was established by a team of caring advocates so those with lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases can get the help they deserve. Our site provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about lung cancer, its link to asbestos, and financial compensation available to patients. Contact us to learn more and get assistance.

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  5. Cleveland Clinic. (2022). Small Cell Lung Cancer. Retrieved June 28, 2023 from
  6. Johns Hopkins Medicine. (n.d). Pneumonectomy. Retrieved June 28, 2023 from
  7. Mayo Clinic. (2023). Radiation therapy. Retrieved June 28, 2023 from
  8. Moffitt Cancer Center. (n.d.). Thoracotomy. Retrieved June 28, 2023 from
  9. National Cancer Institute. (2023). Lung-Sparing Surgery Is Effective for Some with Early-Stage Lung Cancer. Retrieved June 28, 2023 from
  10. National Cancer Institute. (2022). Targeted Therapy to Treat Cancer. Retrieved June 28, 2023 from
  11. Journal of Thoracic Cardiovascular Surgery. (2020). Long-term survival outcome after lobectomy in patients with clinical T1 No lung cancer. Retrieved June 28, 2023 from
  12. Stanford Medicine. (n.d.). Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery Lobectomy. Retrieved June 28, 2023 from
  13. Yale Medicine. (n.d.). Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Retrieved June 28, 2023 from
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