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Making the Decision to Have Surgery for Lung Cancer

Doctor wearing a surgical mask looking at a chest X-ray

The goal of surgery is to remove the tumor from your lung. Your doctor will try to take out the tumor without harming other parts of your body, but he or she usually has to remove part or all of the cancerous lung.

Surgery is a common treatment for lung cancers that have not spread to other parts of your body. Non-small cell lung cancer that is stage 0 to IIIA can often be treated with surgery (usually along with other forms of treatment as well). Non-small cell lung cancer that is stage IIIB or stage IV cancer is not usually treated with surgery. Surgery is less likely to be an option for you if you have small cell lung cancer, unless it is a very early stage cancer.

You have to be healthy enough to have surgery for it to be a good choice for you. If you have heart disease, your lung cancer surgeon may ask your heart doctor to give approval for your surgery. If you have emphysema or any type of lung disease, you may have to have tests before surgery. The doctors' goal is to make sure that the parts of your lung that will remain after surgery will support your breathing. Some types of tumors are not operable. That means they can't be taken out by surgery.

You'll meet with your surgeon before surgery to talk about the procedure. At this time, you can ask questions and talk about concerns you may have. You may want to talk about the possible side effects and risks of the surgery. You may also want to ask your doctor when you can expect to get back to your normal activities. And you may want to know if the surgery will leave scars, as well as where they will be, and what they will look like.

Before surgery, your surgeon will find out if you are taking any medications to make sure they won't affect the surgery. You'll also go over your medical records. After you have discussed the details with the surgeon, you will sign a consent form that says that the doctor can do the surgery.

Online Medical Reviewer: Foster, Sara, RN, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 11/26/2013
© 2013 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare provider's instructions.