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Surgery for Asbestos Lung cancer

Surgery is mostly used to treat a form of asbestos lung cancer classified as non small cell lung cancer. But it may be better for you to have other cancer treatment such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy or a combination of both if your cancer is very near any of the following:-

  • Heart
  • Windpipe
  • Food pipe (oesophagus)
  • Major blood vessels

Another form of asbestos lung cancer is small cell lung cancer. Surgery is not normally used to treat this form of asbestos lung cancer. Surgical intervention is only usually recommended in such cases were the cancer is at a very early stage. This is usually due to small cell lung cancer spreading beyond the lung when it is diagnosed. This results in the removal of the whole of the tumour being impossible. It is often the case that chemotherapy and radiotherapy are recommended ahead of surgery in respect of small cell lung cancer.

The type of surgery you may undergo for your diagnosed asbestos lung cancer will depend on the size of the cancer and its position within the lung.

Removing lobes of the lung

A Lobectomy involves the removal of one lobe of the lung. Your treating medical team will recommend this type of operation if they think the asbestos lung cancer is in just one part of one lung. It is the most common type of operation for lung cancer. A Bilobectomy involves the removal of two lobes of the lung.

A small number of people with asbestos lung cancer have an operation called a sleeve resection. Your surgeon may make use of this procedure in order to avoid removing your whole lung if the cancer is in the central area of the lung and is growing into one of your main airways known as the bronchi. In such circumstances a simple lobectomy cannot be completed. Sleeve resection involves removing the affected section of the bronchus, and any surrounding cancer in the lobe.

Removing the whole lung

A Pneumonectomy involves the removal of the whole lung. Your treating medical team could recommend this operation if the tumour is in the central area of the lung and involves either the 2 lobes on the left or the 3 lobes on the right.

It is a common concern in those diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer that they will struggle to breathe with only one lung. However, a person can breathe normally with only one lung. If you had breathing problems before the operation, you will probably still be breathless afterwards. Your treating medical team will arrange for you to undergo lung function tests before the surgery to help you decide if this operation is right for you.

Removing a section of lung

Asbestos lung cancer sufferers sometimes undergo operations to remove particular areas of the lung. A wedge resection removes an area of the lung that includes part of one or more lobes. A segmentectomy removes areas of the lung along with their veins, arteries and airways.

Such operations can be completed when your treating medical advisors believe the cancer has been diagnosed early and is in only one very small area. If your medical experts think the cancer cells could be anywhere else in the lung they will not recommend this type of operation.

Removing lymph nodes

During your operation your surgeon will very often remove some of the lymph nodes from around the lung. This is because the lymph nodes may contain cancer cells that have broken away from the main cancer. The surgeon then sends the lymph nodes to a specialist laboratory where they are examined under a microscope. If the nodes contain cancer cells this may have an effect on the type of your subsequent recommended treatment.

If your cancer has spread

If your asbestos cancer has spread to anywhere else in your body, then a major operation to remove your cancer is not usually thought to be the best option. If there are cancer cells anywhere else, the operation will not remove them and your doctor will probably suggest another type of cancer treatment such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy or a combination of both instead.

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