Lung resection is the surgical removal of the diseased portion of a lung or the entire diseased lung and is the preferred treatment for patients with early stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Surgery can be performed by open incision or with minimally invasive techniques like Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) and the robot-assisted daVinci® Surgical System.

At the time of surgery, thoracic surgeons have the ability to remove certain portions of the lung because the lungs are divided into lobes and segments. The types of lung resection are:

  • Wedge Resection: The surgeon removes only a small part of the lung affected by cancer. This removes the tumor and some surrounding lung.
  • Segmentectomy: A segment of the lung is removed.
  • Lobectomy: An entire lobe of the lung is removed.
  • Pneumonectomy: An entire lung is removed.

The amount of lung removed depends on several factors, including the size and location of the tumor, whether lymph nodes have cancer in them and how well the lungs are functioning. Not all lung cancers are amenable to surgery, and some are initially treated with chemotherapy and radiation rather than surgery.

To help determine if a patient is fit enough for lung resection, a pulmonary function test (PFT) is given to measure lung capacity. Some patients may also require additional testing to see if their hearts are able to withstand major surgery.

Although surgery is primarily used for early-stage lung cancer, it can sometimes be used in more advanced stages of the disease following chemotherapy, or combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS)

Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS) is a surgical technique that accesses the lung through small incisions—versus the larger incisions required in conventional open surgery. A tiny video camera is inserted through one of these smaller incisions, allowing surgeons to view the lung on a high-definition monitor and pinpoint the area that contains the tumor. Then, using special surgical staplers and clips, surgeons can go in and remove the diseased portion of the lung. Surgeons at SCI Thoracic Surgery introduced and pioneered the use of VATS in the Pacific Northwest in 1997, and have done more than 1,000 lobectomies using minimally invasive techniques.

Learn more about Video Assisted Thoracic Surgery (VATS)

Robot-Assisted daVinci® Surgical System

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Swedish also offers the robot-assisted daVinci® Surgical System for thoracic procedures, including certain types of lung resections. The thoracic group at Swedish was the first in the Northwest to perform a robotic lobectomy, as well as the first in the Seattle area to perform robotic thoracic surgery.

Learn more about da Vinci and Lung Cancer

What to Expect

How to Prepare for Lung Surgery and What to Expect After Your Operation.

Appointments & Referrals

Contact us at 206-215-6800 or visit Swedish Thoracic Surgery at Swedish Cancer Institute  for more Information and to discuss this with your thoracic surgeon.


More Information

Treatment Options by Stage

Radiation Therapy


About Lung Cancer