Lung Cancer Surgery FAQs

Depending on the type of lung cancer, it can be treated with surgery. There are several different types of lung cancer surgery. Learn the answers to some frequently asked questions about lung cancer surgery.

What’s thoracic surgery for lung cancer?

Thoracic surgery for lung cancer is a minimally invasive procedure where a surgeon will attempt to remove your cancerous tumor by making one incision between the chest and the ribs.

Previously, the only way to remove part of the lung was to conduct “open” lung surgery, also known as a lobectomy. As technology advances, the prevalence of this type of surgery becomes more widespread.

What’s lung cancer surgery like?

Due to the variety of lung cancer screening processes and treatment options, surgical management of lung cancer is different for every patient.

However, you can expect to be anesthetized for the duration of your surgery while your Mercy doctor and a team of specialists perform a minimally invasive or “open” type of lung cancer surgery. 

What’s the treatment for lung cancer?

Treatments for lung cancer vary wildly and depend largely on what stage your cancer is in when it’s discovered. However, your treatment will generally fall under one of three umbrella categories: medical therapy (e.g. chemotherapy), radiation therapy (e.g. brachytherapy) or surgery. 

How is the recovery from cancer surgery to remove a lung?

Following a procedure to remove a lung, you can expect your recovery from lung cancer surgery to last anywhere between several weeks to a few months. As a rule of thumb, the more minimally invasive your surgery is the shorter your recovery time will be. However, recovery times will also depend on any other chronic respiratory conditions you may have. 

How much does it cost to treat lung cancer?

Unfortunately, there are too many factors at play to provide a rough estimate for this answer (e.g. health care coverage, out-of-pocket costs, etc.). However, you can expect your total cost to rise if you require more treatment types or surgeries to battle lung cancer.

How much is ultimately covered by your insurance provider is determined by your current health care plan. Be sure to ask about insurance coverage and understand what portion of co-payment you’ll be responsible for once surgery has been completed.

Why is surgery not done for lung cancer that has spread?

If you’ve been diagnosed with an advanced stage of lung cancer, that means your cancer has metastasized to other nearby organs, making surgery a less effective option. For types of lung cancer that can spread more quickly, such as small cell lung cancer, chemotherapy or radiation therapy are generally considered more effective treatment options.

Can you live with one lung?

Yes. Usually a single lung will bring enough oxygen into the body and remove enough carbon dioxide for you to function properly. If your Mercy doctor recommends a procedure called a pneumonectomy, they will remove the entire affected lung from your body, leaving you with just one. Your current age, state of health and other risk factors will determine whether this procedure is right for you. 

How long after lung surgery can you fly?

Air travel is generally considered to be equally as safe as ground transportation for patients following their operation. However, it’s always a good idea to consult your Mercy doctor before making any travel arrangements following your lung cancer surgery. 

Lung Cancer Resources

Early Detection
Lung Cancer Screening

Lung cancer screening is used to detect lung cancer at early stages - when it's more likely to be cured. 

Learn about low-dose CT scans