Treating Lung Cancer: Which Surgical Option Is Best for You?


If you have lung cancer, your doctors have three options for treating it with surgery: wedge resection, lobectomy or pneumonectomy. You can find out more about these terms, but how do you know which approach is best for you?

Many factors may affect this decision — the size of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread, and how much of your lung the surgeon needs to remove, for instance.

You’ll want to review each option in detail with your surgeon. However, another key factor is what approach your surgeon will take, says cardiothoracic surgeon Alejandro Bribriesco, MD.

“Two goals for any lung cancer surgery are to perform the best cancer operation you can and to perform it safely,” he says.

Surgical options for lung cancer 

Here, according to Dr. Bribriesco, are the three primary options for treating lung cancer with surgery: 

Approaches your surgeon will consider

There also are three options to consider regarding the surgical approach or how the lung is removed, Dr. Bribriesco says:

When minimally invasive surgery isn’t right for you

Surgeons treat most patients who have small or early-stage lung cancers with VATS or robotic-assisted surgery, Dr. Bribriesco says. But in some cases, the traditional open-chest approach is recommended. This might be the case if your tumor is very large or the cancer involves more than one lobe of the lung. Other possible reasons include:

Make sure you understand how your surgeon plans to approach your procedure, then keep yourself in good condition by eating well and staying active beforehand, Dr. Bribriesco says. These are the most important things you can do to set yourself up for the best possible outcome.