Lung Cancer Surgery FAQs

By Brett E. Grizzell, MD, FACS

  1. What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

    According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer among both men and women. Smoking tobacco is the leading risk factor for lung cancer. Secondhand smoke and radon are also two big risk factors.

    Symptoms of lung cancer may vary for each person. Most commonly, people show symptoms related to the lungs, but symptoms may appear in other parts of the body as well.

    Symptoms may include:

    • Persistent cough
    • Chest pain
    • Shortness of breath
    • Wheezing
    • Hoarseness or changes in the voice
    • Coughing up blood
    • Recurrent bouts of bronchitis or pneumonia
    • Fatigue
    • Unexplained weight loss or loss of appetitive
    • Headaches or dizziness
    • Bone or joint pain

    These symptoms are all common for various other illnesses, too. However, if you suffer from any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor.

  2. How is lung cancer diagnosed?

    Your primary care physician may refer you to various specialists to aid in the diagnosis of lung cancer, including an oncologist or pulmonologist. These specialists may perform a variety of diagnostic tests, such as a physical exam, imaging tests (such as a chest X-ray or CT scan), lung fluid and mucus exams, bronchoscopy, or lung biopsy.

    Where the cancer is located, as well as the type and stage of cancer will determine the kind of treatment needed. If it is determined that surgery is a viable treatment option, this is where the cardiothoracic surgeons at Wichita Surgical Specialists can help.

  3. How long would I have to stay in the hospital after the procedure?

    The length of your hospital stay will be dependent on several factors, including the type of surgery and your individual medical condition. Typically, a patient can expect to be in the hospital for 2-4 days following a minimally invasive lung cancer surgery.

    Your post-surgery recovery also has a lot to do with your pre-surgery condition., and there are things you can do to help get yourself ready for your surgery. Typically, those who are physically active, stop smoking, limit alcohol consumption, and eat a well-balanced diet prior to surgery will recover with more ease.

  4. What is the recovery and after-care process after the procedure?

    You will receive your after-care instructions prior to being discharged from the hospital. Depending on your surgery and condition, you may receive a prescription for an antibiotic as well as a medication to help with pain management.

    Just as every patient’s medical condition is unique, so is their recovery process. However, there are things you can do to aid the recovery process.

    You’re going to feel very tired and weak for a few weeks, or even months, after surgery for lung cancer. So, listen to your body. Rest when you’re tired. Gradually increase your activity, starting with short walks. Avoid strenuous activities and avoid lifting anything heavier than 10 pounds until cleared to do so by your surgeon.

    Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.

    Your surgeon will determine when you can start driving again, which would be after your follow-up appointment and after you’re no longer taking pain medications. Follow-up appointments are typically 2-6 weeks after surgery.

Brett Grizzell, MD, FACS, is a cardiothoracic surgeon with Wichita Surgical Specialists, PA. He specializes in robotic lung resection and minimally invasive lung resection for the surgical treatment of lung cancer.