Christopher Kwon, MD, is a board-certified cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon at Banner Estrella Medical Center, specializing in adult heart, lung and aortic surgery.
Question: I have lung cancer but I am told that it is in the early stages. Does that mean I have to have surgery?
Answer: It is very important for you to talk with your physicians regarding your options for treatment of this disease. Your treatment will depend on where the cancer is located in your lungs and the chance that the cancer could spread or become more serious.
There are many options for treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Even if your oncologist recommends surgery, there are many options available to you within surgical oncology.
One type of surgery I recently have been performing is the video-assisted thoracoscopic lobectomy, or VATS lobectomy. A VATS lobectomy enables me to remove a cancerous lobe without having to spread a patient’s ribs, thus providing a less painful and less invasive alternative to traditional surgery.
To perform this minimally-invasive lung surgery, I make four small incisions on the side of the chest instead of one large incision. A miniature video camera is inserted through one of these sites. Then, using the other three sites, the cancerous lobe is removed. This less-invasive approach enables my patient to have earlier mobility and, in most cases, quicker discharge from the hospital. Most patients do not require an ICU stay. Also, because pain is greatly reduced, only oral pain medications are needed and no epidural is required.
Currently, very few lung cancer operations are performed using the VATS method but it is available at Banner Estrella Medical Center. If your doctor has recommended surgery for your lung cancer, ask whether you can have an evaluation for a VATS lobectomy.