Lung Cancer Surgery

Lung Cancer Surgery

The cardiothoracic surgeons at Wichita Surgical Specialists perform several minimally invasive procedures as part of the overall diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.

There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Surgery is most often used in the treatment of early stage non-small cell lung cancer.

Minimally invasive surgical procedures have many benefits to patients, including:

  • Faster recovery
  • Smaller incisions
  • Less pain
  • Minimized blood loss
  • No cutting/spreading of the ribs or chest wall

The type of surgery used is dependent on many factors including the patient’s overall health and lung function, as well as the size and location of the tumor. Surgery for lung cancer may be the only treatment needed for some patients, while some patients will require additional treatments, such as chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment. Your physician-surgeon team will recommend the type of surgery and treatment best for you based on your individual condition.


Prior to surgery, several tests will be necessary as part of the diagnosis process. These may include pulmonary function tests, imaging tests, and the gathering of a lung tissue sample(s).

The method used to gather the tissue sample depends on the location of the tumor. If a simpler test, such as a needle biopsy, is not effective in sampling a suspicious area of the lung, a thoracoscopy may be necessary.

During a thoracoscopy, the surgeon inserts a thin tube into the chest through a small incision. The tube has a microscopic camera at the end of it to help visualize the space between the lungs and the chest wall.

A thoracoscopy can be performed to determine whether the cancer has spread to the spaces between or the linings of the lungs and chest wall.

Minimally Invasive Lung Resection (wedge resection) – Video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS)

A thoracoscopy can also be performed to gather tissue sample(s), or as part of the treatment to remove part of a lung for some patients in the early stage of lung cancer.

In the past, in order to gain access to the lung, major open chest surgery (called thoracotomy) was the only option. Today, a minimally invasive lung resection can be performed to treat lung cancer without opening up the chest.

During a minimally invasive lung resection, the surgeon makes an incision in the chest then inserts the long, thin thorascope tube which has a microscopic video camera at the end. The camera helps guide the surgeon to examine the chest cavity and lungs. The surgeon then removes a wedge-portion of the affected lung as well as a small portion of healthy tissue around the tumor. This tissue can then be examined for further diagnosis if necessary.

Robotic Lung Resection

For more extensive procedures, a robotic lung resection may be necessary. With the guidance of a three-dimensional, high-definition robotic system, the surgeon will remove a small, wedge-shaped portion of the lung. This starts with a series of small incisions in the chest. The robot system offers improved visualization of the chest cavity and lungs as well as better access to the tissues that lie within the small confines of the chest.

With video- and robot-guidance, lung cancer surgery can be performed with smaller incisions, eliminating the need to open the chest and spread the ribs. Less trauma to the chest cavity leads to a faster recovery with less pain for the patient.

Although minimally invasive surgery can be used for many lung cancer patients, not all patients may be candidates.

For additional information on lung cancer surgery at Wichita Surgical Specialists, visit our Lung Cancer Surgery FAQ page.

For additional information on lung cancer symptoms, diagnosing and staging, we recommend visiting the American Cancer Society website:

Our Physicians

  • Matthew A. Arneson, MD, FACS
    • Cardiothoracic Surgery
    • Coronary Artery Bypass
    • Thoracoscopy
    • Thoracic Surgery
  • Headshot photo of Dr. Sanjay Khicha, cardiothoracic surgeon with Wichita Surgical Specialists Sanjay G. Khicha, MD, FACS
    • Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)
    • Transcatheter Mitral Valve Replacement
    • Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO)
    • Surgery for Atrial Fibrillation
    • Mitral Valve Repair Surgery
    • Aortic Surgery
    • Coronary Artery Bypass Surgery
    • Thoracic Stent Graft Surgery
    • General Thoracic Surgery, Including Lung Cancer & Benign Lung Disease
  • Headshot photo of Dr. Brett Grizzell, cardiothoracic surgeon with Wichita Surgical Specialists Brett E. Grizzell, MD, FACS
    • Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)
    • Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair/Replacement
    • Valve Surgery
    • Robotic Lung Resection / Lung Cancer Surgery
    • Coronary Revascularization
    • Esophageal Resection