Lung cancer

Surgery

Lung cancer

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Surgery involves removing tissues or organs from the body. The type of surgery you have depends on your cancer. You may also hear surgery called an operation or a procedure.

Every operation is different. Ask your surgeon about what to expect.

Some lung cancer surgery is complex and should be done at a specialist centre. 

See our Canrefer website for a list of specialist centres in NSW.

What you need to know

Lung cancer surgery

The different types of surgery for lung cancer include:

  • thoracotomy
  • wedge resection
  • lobectomy
  • pneumonectomy.

Your surgeon will discuss with you when and where you can have your operation, and any costs involved. They will also give you instructions about what to do before your surgery and what to expect afterwards.

Thermal ablation for lung cancer

Thermal ablation is a procedure that is often given under anaesthetic. It is also known as radiofrequency ablation.

Needles are inserted directly into the cancer, using a CT scan to check they are in the right place. Electrical energy is passed through the needles. This heats up the cancer cells and kills them.

Thermal ablation is used to treat small cancers when surgery is not possible. It may be used with other lung cancer treatments.

The surgical team

Health professionals who work as part of the surgical team include:

  • surgeon
  • anaesthetist
  • nurse
  • allied health professional.

What to ask or talk about

Side effects of lung surgery

Your surgeon will discuss any risks of the surgery with you before your operation. Most hospitals will also give you written information about the surgery and who to contact if you have any concerns.

Possible surgical side effects and complications include:

  • pain 
  • infection 
  • bleeding 
  • tiredness (fatigue)
  • loss of appetite 
  • blood clots 
  • air leak or lung collapse.

The surgical team looking after you during and after your operation will take care to reduce your risk of side effects, and treat any that you get.

Every operation is different. Ask your surgeon about what to expect and see our checklist of questions to ask.

checklist Checklists

Use our checklists to find helpful tips or questions to ask.

Next steps

Preparing for surgery

Before surgery, you will need to sign a consent form. It is important you understand what you are consenting to and the possible risks of the surgery.

Some things you should know are:

  • whether you need to have tests and a preoperative assessment
  • whether you need to change or stop any medications, e.g. blood thinners like aspirin
  • when you have to stop eating and drinking
  • when you have to be there
  • whether you need time off work
  • whether you need someone to care for you at home after surgery (if you are having day surgery you will need someone to drive you home).
If you smoke, you should stop before any operation as your risk of complications from surgery is higher.

Where to get help

There are people you can talk to for more information or support.

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