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Lung Cancer Treatment

After your doctor makes a diagnosis of lung cancer and determines the stage (extent), he or she will suggest a treatment plan that may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy or a combination of treatments. Your doctor will explain potential side effects, as well as the pros and cons of each treatment.

Radiation uses high-energy X-rays to kill cancer cells. External radiation is the most common type of radiation for lung cancer. Side effects depend on the dose and type of radiation. While it is non-invasive, this treatment may still harm your esophagus and compromise your ability to swallow.1

Chemotherapy uses anti-cancer drugs to kill cancer cells. There are over 100 different medications that may be used in chemotherapy, and they can be given intravenously or orally. Side effects of chemotherapy range from hair loss and nausea to fatigue.

Open Surgery
In open surgery, the amount of tissue excised depends on the stage of the lung cancer. Your surgeon may remove:

  • a small section of your lung along with the tumor(s) and a margin of healthy tissue (wedge resection)
  • a larger portion of the lung but not an entire lobe (segmental resection)
  • an entire lobe of one lung (lobectomy)
  • an entire lung (pneumonectomy)

Open surgery for lung cancer is performed through a long chest incision. Your surgeon may need to spread your ribs to access your lungs. Open surgery allows doctors to see and touch your organs while operating.

Minimally Invasive Surgery
An alternative to open surgery is thoracoscopy, also called video-assisted thoracic surgery. Doctors insert a tiny camera called a thoracoscope and surgical instruments into your chest through small incisions. The camera takes images inside your body and sends them to a video monitor in the operating room to guide doctors as they operate.

The da Vinci Robot
A new minimally invasive option for lung cancer patients facing lobectomy is da Vinci robotic surgery. Using the da Vinci Surgical System, surgeons make a few small incisions—similar to thoracoscopy procedures. The da Vinci System features a magnified 3D high-definition vision system and tiny, wristed instruments that bend and rotate far greater than the human wrist and fingers can. These unique features enable surgeons to operate with enhanced vision, precision, dexterity and control. As a result of da Vinci technology, da Vinci Lobectomy offers precise removal of cancerous tissue2, as well as the following potential benefits compared to open surgery:

  • Lower rate of complications3
  • Shorter hospital stay3
  • Less pain3
  • Fewer days with chest tube (used to drain excess lung fluid)3
  • Small incisions for minimal scarring3

Watch the da Vinci System demonstrate its precision by folding origami.

For a physician referral, call 678-312-5000 or click here.

To speak to with our thoracic oncology nurse navigator for assistance with lung cancer screening or with questions regarding a lung or chest cancer diagnosis, call Nancy McCormick at 678-312-3189.

1. “What You Need To Know About Lung Cancer,” National Cancer Institute,
2. Kernstine KH, Anderson CA, Falabella A. “Robotic lobectomy. Operative techniques in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery,” 2008:204.e1-204.e23.
3. Cerfolio RJ, Bryant AS, Skylizard L, Minnich DJ. “Results of, and technical advancements to, completely portal robotic pulmonary resection using 4 arms (CPRL-4).” Submitted to JTCVS April 2011.