surgeon explains procedure to patient


At Providence, your lung cancer team includes specialists in diagnosis, surgery and pathology. Whenever possible, we use minimally invasive techniques so that you experience a faster recovery, less pain and reduced scarring. 

When you have lung cancer, a procedure called a lobectomy may be needed to remove cancerous cells. It’s the most commonly performed surgery for lung cancer that has spread widely within one of the five lobes of your lung. A lobectomy removes the entire lobe, with the goal of getting rid of all cancer cells.  

The lungs include multiple lobes; the right has three and the left has two. A lobectomy entirely removes one lobe. Doctors can complete the procedure with a traditional thoracotomy or a minimally invasive treatment option called video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). Your doctor will talk to you about which option is right for you.   

You’ll spend two to five days in the hospital after your procedure. To ensure you get the best outcomes after a lobectomy procedure, we integrate your care with therapists, rehabilitation specialists and other health care professionals who provide the care and support you need to get back to the activities you enjoy. 

As with any surgery, there are risks and side effects that you should be aware of as you prepare for a lobectomy.  Your care team will talk with you about what to watch out for. 

Possible risks include:

  • Bleeding
  • Bronchopleural fistula (a tube-like track that causes air or fluid to leak out at the surgical site)
  • Empyema (a collection of pus in the chest cavity)
  • Infection
  • Tension pneumothorax (air trapped between the lung and chest wall)
  • A tension pneumothorax can potentially cause the lungs to collapse. 

Side effects after surgery may include: 

  • Changes in your mental state 
  • High fever 
  • Pain when breathing 
  • Redness, swelling, or pain around the incision 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Trouble breathing