Lung Cancer Surgical Options

Thoracic surgeons at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center are leaders in minimally invasive surgical approaches for treating lung cancer.

When possible, we use small incisions (to avoid injury to the ribcage) and tiny camera-guided instruments to perform lung cancer resections.

These minimally invasive approaches may allow for less post-op pain and a quicker recovery. You can often go home within a few days.

Some lung tumors, especially those that are large or hard to reach, may require extensive surgery.

Our thoracic surgeons have experience in bronchoplastic lung-sparing techniques. These methods allow removal of the tumor with little damage to healthy tissue, preserving your lung function without compromising cancer care.

Your care team and your surgeon will explain your options and:

  • Recommend a procedure that takes into account the type and stage of lung cancer along with the goals of surgery.
  • Discuss with you the risks and benefits of the treatment.
  • Describe the post-op healing process.

You will also decide together the possible addition of radiation therapy or chemo to your treatment plan.

Radiofrequency Ablation Treatment for Lung Cancer

For some people, surgery may be too risky. In these cases, radiofrequency ablation (RFA) may be a treatment option for lung cancer.

RFA involves placing a probe in the lung tumor through a needle catheter. The probe delivers electrical heat energy, killing the cancer cells.

Stereotactic Radiosurgery for Lung Cancer

Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) treat tumors in the lung without having to make an incision.

These treatments use strategically focused radiation beams in high doses to destroy tumors in hard-to-reach areas.

Doctors typically suggest SRS and SBRT if you're not a candidate for lung cancer surgery.

Types of SRS for lung cancer

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center offers three types of SRS:

Sublobar Resection (Wedge Resection) and Intraoperative Brachytherapy

Many people with small-cell lung cancers have reduced heart or lung functions, making the removal of an entire lung impossible.

For these high-risk patients, our surgeons can remove a smaller part of the lung tissue that surrounds the tumor.

Using minimally invasive or open techniques, the surgeon removes a wedge of tissue from the lung. He or she then implants radioactive brachytherapy “seeds” along the edge of the resection.

These tiny seeds help to kill the lung tumor and any cancer cells that remain in the area.

Video-assisted Thoracic Surgical Lobectomy

Lobectomy — or removal of a lobe of the lung — is the standard of care for people with early-stage non-small cell lung cancer.

Video-assisted thoracic surgical (VATS) lobectomy is a minimally invasive alternative to open surgery to remove a lobe.

During this procedure, the thoracic surgeon makes a small incision and inserts mini, camera-guided instruments to remove the tumor.

A VATS lobectomy often results in a faster recovery and less post-op pain.

Contact Us About Lung Cancer Care

To learn more about lung cancer care or to make an appointment, you can: