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Lung Cancer Surgery

Key Points

  • Surgery is not an option for all lung cancer patients.
  • Surgery involves removing part of or the entire lung.
  • Prepare for surgery by learning what you can expect (watch video above) and using this worksheet to stay organized.

Lung cancer surgery is an option for some patients depending on the type, location and stage of their lung cancer and other medical conditions. Attempts to cure lung cancer with the surgery will remove the tumor along with some surrounding lung tissue. Removing the tumor with lung cancer surgery is considered the best option when the cancer is localized and unlikely to have spread. This often includes early stage non-small cell lung cancers and carcinoid tumors.

Surgery may be the first step in lung cancer treatment or it may follow other treatments. The following surgical procedures are used to treat lung cancer:

Lung Cancer Surgical Procedures

Wedge Resection

A wedge resection is the removal of a small, wedge-shaped part of the lung tissue surrounding the cancerous tumor.


Lobectomy is the removal (resection) of the lobe (section) of the lung affected by lung cancer. This is the most common lung cancer surgery. A bilobectomy is the removal of two lobes in the same lung. The right lung is divided into three lobes; the left lung has two lobes.


Pneumonectomy is the removal of the entire lung affected by cancer. This lung cancer procedure is usually done if the cancer cannot be fully removed with the lobectomy, if there is concern that cancer may have spread throughout the left or right lung or if the lesion is centrally located.

A lung cancer surgery called a sleeve resection is also sometimes done. A sleeve resection starts with the removal of lung cancer tumors. These tumors can be in the main airway (bronchus), part of the pulmonary artery (artery to the lung) or the lobe. The ends of the bronchus are rejoined and any remaining lobes are reattached to the bronchus.

Possible Lung Cancer Surgery Side Effects

Each type of lung cancer treatment option has possible side effects. It is important to know the potential side effects and ways to cope with them before beginning lung cancer treatment. You might experience:

  • Pain
  • Possible complications from the lung cancer surgery

Discuss concerns, possible side effects and any effects that you experience with your doctor. Download a list of suggested questions.

Learn more

Learn more about lung cancer treatment options »

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