Types of surgeries and treatments for lung cancer

In the earlier stages, lung cancer usually involves surgical removal of the tumor, with radiation treatments and/or chemotherapy to follow. Sometimes a piece of the lung will need to be removed as well. Main Line Health’s thoracic surgeons specialize in minimally invasive surgical techniques, including:

  • Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) involves making small incisions around the lungs and removing the tumor with the assistance of video cameras. It is less invasive than making a large incision in the chest and is quite effective in treating early stage non-small cell lung tumors. Because it is minimally invasive, recovery is quicker.
  • Robotic-assisted thoracic surgery uses a surgical robot to access the tumor in the lung through small incisions in the chest area. It is also minimally invasive and results in a quicker recovery for the patient.
  • Photodynamic therapy is sometimes used to treat non-small cell lung cancer that has not spread to other areas. The procedure involves injecting light-sensitive medication into a vein. The surgeon then shines a light on the tumor through a bronchoscope which is passed through the mouth into the lungs. The light destroys the cells that have absorbed the medication.

In cases of very advanced disease, or because of other health factors, surgery may not be an option and radiation therapy will be prescribed as the initial treatment. Stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT) often is suggested for treatment of lung cancer where surgery is not an option. This involves very high doses of radiation aimed at the tumor. Radiation therapy centers offering SRT are available at all four of Main Line Health’s hospitals as well as at its outpatient centers throughout the Philadelphia region.

In many instances, surgery and radiation are combined with chemotherapy which involves drug therapy usually by injection into a vein. Chemotherapy is prescribed and administered by a medical oncologist, in consultation with the surgeon, radiation therapist, pulmonologist and other members of the care team. The frequency and length of the treatment process depend on your individual treatment plan.

Clinical trials and lung cancer treatment

Clinical trials involve the introduction of new medications or a combination of therapies to patients undergoing cancer treatment. Participation is always voluntary but can bring you a new approach—and hope.

Main Line Health has been recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) for its research focus. It is the only community-based cancer program in the Delaware Valley to receive this designation and one of only 34 recipients nationally. NCORP designs and conducts cancer research. Through this designation, Main Line Health patients can participate in the latest studies and trials within their communities.

If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, and you are interested in exploring all of your treatment options, talk to your cancer team about clinical trials that might be right for you.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.