According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 228,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2013, and nearly 160,000 Americans will die from the disease. Treatment depends on the type and stage of lung cancer, and may include surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy or targeted drug therapies to block the growth of lung cancer cells.
Radiation therapy is an option at any stage of lung cancer, and chemotherapy may be used alone, with radiation therapy, or after surgery. Surgery is usually only an option for people with early stage lung cancer.
A lobectomy, or surgical removal of a large section of lung, is the most common surgery performed to treat lung cancer. But while this procedure offers the best chance of a cure for those with early stage lung cancer, the traditional open-chest approach requires lengthy recovery in the hospital, followed by extended recovery at home.
For selected patients, video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) offers a less invasive surgical approach. This technique results in a shorter hospital stay and more rapid recovery, with less pain after surgery compared to the traditional approach. This less invasive procedure can accurately diagnose and effectively treat a wide range of chest disorders, including lung and esophageal cancer, interstitial lung disease, pleural diseases, and emphysema.
However, although minimally invasive approaches are evaluated for every patient, some patients may not be candidates for VATS. Traditional thoracotomy may be more appropriate for some patients with large tumors, involved lymph nodes, or prior chest surgery. Your surgeon will determine the most appropriate surgical approach for you.
For more information about the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer, download the free booklet, “What You Need to Know About Lung Cancer” available from the National Cancer Institute.