Lung Cancer Surgery


If you have lung cancer that hasn’t spread, you may need surgery to remove your tumor.

It’s natural to worry about having an operation. But you can take comfort knowing modern lung surgery is often less invasive. And for many people with lung cancer, surgery is the best chance for a cure.

What is Lung Cancer Surgery?

We each have a pair of lungs that allow us to breathe. When you inhale and exhale, your lungs take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Each lung is made of small sections called lobes. Your right lung has three lobes, and your left lung has two lobes.

Several types of lung surgery may treat cancer:

  • Lobectomy removes the lobe containing the tumor. It is the most common surgery for lung cancer.
  • Segmentectomy (wedge resection) removes only a piece of a lobe. This may be an option for people with limited lung function, who can’t tolerate losing a whole lobe.
  • Pneumonectomy removes an entire lung.
  • Sleeve resection treats cancer that extends from your lung into a nearby airway (like your bronchial tube). Your surgeon removes the entire lobe, and part of your airway. Then the remaining section of airway is reattached to a new lobe.

The type of surgery you’ll need depends on several factors. These include:

  • The size and location of your lung tumor.
  • The stage of your cancer. To qualify for surgery, your cancer must be localized. This means it hasn’t spread to your lymph nodes or beyond. Surgery is usually reserved for people with early stage, non-small cell lung cancer or lung carcinoid tumors.
  • The health of your heart and lungs. You must be healthy enough to have (and recover from) surgery. Your doctor will order tests to make sure your leftover lung tissue will work after surgery.

Lung Cancer Surgery at Mercy

Mercy offers a broad range of surgical options for people with lung cancer.

Some patients need a type of “open” surgery called thoracotomy. Your surgeon accesses your lung through a large incision on the side of your chest, between your ribs.

Whenever possible, we perform minimally invasive lung surgery. 

Your doctor performs the operation through several tiny incisions, instead of one large incision. This may reduce your pain and risk of complications after surgery. You may also have a shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery.

Mercy offers the following minimally invasive techniques for lung cancer:

No matter what type of surgery you have, your recovery can take several weeks to several months. But many people eventually return to normal activity levels – even if they lost an entire lung.

If you’re nervous about lung cancer treatment, you’re not alone. But you can rest assured knowing Mercy is by your side. We’ll provide the support and encouragement you need to get through surgery, recovery and beyond.

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