Surgery Options for Lung Cancer

In this video we review the most common surgical options for lung cancer: pneumonectomy, lobectomy, segmentectomy and wedge resection.

Read the full video transcript below:

Patients with lung cancer that has not spread outside the chest may be candidates to have it surgically removed. There are several different surgical options, and the best one really depends on the size and location of the tumor. 

In this video, we'll start with the biggest surgery and then go down to the smallest surgery. 

Tumors that are either very large or what we call centrally located, or located near the central airways, can only really be removed by removing the entire lung. This procedure is called a pneumonectomy, and with this procedure the entire lung is removed. Obviously the other lung remains intact. 

Many patients with lung cancer also have a smoking history, and so their lungs aren't in great condition. So surgeons have developed smaller surgeries that still offer a very good chance of cure, but leave the patient in much better condition after surgery. The most common smaller surgery for lung cancer is called the lobectomy. With a lobectomy, the entire lobe of the lung where the tumor is located is removed, in this case, the right lower lobe. The remaining lobes of that same lung remain intact.

Sometimes surgeons can get away with doing a smaller surgery than the lobectomy. Each lobe of the lung is split into three to five different segments. When a tumor is confined to just some of those segments, it's possible to remove just that area, called a segmentectomy. This is usually done for smaller, more peripherally located lung cancers. 

With a wedge resection, a small section or wedge of the lung is removed, while the remainder of the lobe remains intact. This can be a good option for patients who are very frail and have very poor lung function.