A diagnosis of lung cancer can leave you and your loved ones with a lot of questions, as well as fears. What treatment options are available? How will you recover? What will your quality of life be like?
For lung cancer patients, there is good news on the horizon. Recent innovations in minimally invasive surgical approaches are presenting more positive outcomes than what has been available in the past.
How is a minimally invasive approach different from traditional lung cancer surgery? And what benefits are patients seeing, as a result?
Traditional Approach to Lung Cancer Surgery
Unfortunately, this approach, known as a thoracotomy for lobectomy of the lung –in which the cancerous anatomical portion of the lung is removed – puts pressure on the ribs, as well as the underlying nerves causing significant pain for patients during recovery and for some patients, the pain is permanent. Moreover, this pain puts patients at increased risk for post-surgical health issues, including pneumonia.
How the Minimally Invasive Approach Works
Instead of relying upon one large incision and spreading the ribs, a minimally invasive approach only requires a few small incisions in which a camera and small surgical instruments are inserted.
Benefits for Lung Cancer Patients
Minimally invasive surgery translates into less pain for patients, as well as shorter recovery/healing time. This not only allows patients to return home within a day or two of their procedure, they are also able to return to their normal lives and routines with greater speed. This decreased recovery window enables doctors to administer follow-up treatments sooner.
Patients that might otherwise have been considered ineligible for surgery now have a new minimally invasive treatment option available to them. For example, patients with diminished lung function or emphysema – who might not have been eligible for more traditional surgical approaches – now can be considered for minimally invasive surgery.
Start by Having a Conversation
Don’t write off surgery. Given the advancements for lung cancer patients available today, talk to your doctor, you may have more options than you realize.
As a surgeon, I find it very rewarding to see a patient after surgery. They often look like they haven't had an operation and in a few cases, patients say they feel like they haven't even had an operation at all. With the minimally invasive approaches, they have a minimal amount of pain and recovery. What could be better than that?