Lung cancer is one of the most prevalent cancers among Australians, accounting for one in every five cancer-related deaths in 2010. However, in recent times, you do not have to suffer or die from lung cancer as there are several treatment options that are available to you.
One of the most aggressive and invasive is lung resection surgery, where the entire lung or part of your lung is taken out (removed). One of the many types of lung resection surgery is VATS lobectomy.
A lobectomy is any surgery in which a lobe is removed. In this case, it is a part of your lung. VATS lobectomy is short for Video-Assisted Thoracoscopic Surgery lobectomy.
VATS lobectomy involves making small incisions in your chest area to insert a camera and other instruments into your chest cavity to remove the tumour.
VATS lobectomy is a proven and minimally invasive procedure compared to other lung resection surgeries. Patients opt for this approach as it involves less procedural trauma to the patient’s body and can result in faster recovery.
However, it should be noted that this procedure is not for everyone. The candidates for VATS lobectomy are those who are prone to develop complications from an open chest surgery or thoracotomy. The tumour must also be small enough and it must be in a location that can be easily reached by the instruments used in a VATS lobectomy. Those who have already undergone surgery in the chest area might not be allowed to go through VATS lobectomy. This is because there might be scar tissues present that might block access to the chest cavity. Obviously, if you have a larger tumour, or if the tumour is located in the centre of your lung rather than in the outer third, your doctor might not recommend a VATS lobectomy.
Your doctor will conduct tests in order to determine if a VATS lobectomy is the best treatment option for you. These tests can include blood tests, PET scans, electrocardiograms, CT scans, and breathing tests to check your pulmonary function. Your overall health will also be checked.
Depending on the findings, your doctor might order other types of tests for you.
Also known as video-thorascopy, thorascopic surgery, and video-assisted thoracic surgery, a VATS lobectomy can last for several hours. The surgeon will make a small cut or incision in your chest area measuring around 4 cm to 5 cm. There will also be two smaller incisions where the camera and the medical instruments will be inserted. The video-endoscopic camera will allow your doctor to see what is inside your lungs and this will enable him to control the instruments, and remove the tumour.
What to Expect
As is typical of patients who undergo other minimally invasive surgeries, VATS lobectomy you tend to have less pain after the operation. The recovery period is also shorter, thus you will require a shorter stay at the hospital, and can normally go back to work in a month or less.
After your surgery, you will be given very specific guidelines and instructions regarding the activities you can do, caring for your wounds, and your diet, among other things.
You will also be scheduled for a follow-up 10 days after your surgery. During the follow-up, your surgeon will be checking your recovery as well as the wound sites. Further guidelines and recommendations will be given as necessary.
You may experience pain and shortness of breath over the succeeding months after the surgery, but they should go away as the wounds heal and as the other tissues of your lungs take over. Typically, you will not need prolonged medical care after the procedure.
Your lung function will be decreased, but you are most likely to live an active life after VATS lobectomy. We strongly recommend ceasing smoking in order to stop your lung functions from deteriorating.
As with other surgeries, there are potential risks involved with VATS lobectomy. These risks may occur during or after the procedure:
Should you have more questions and concerns about the procedure, it is always best to speak to your doctor.