Image of 3 surgeons performing an operation

Lung Cancer Surgery

Types of lung cancer surgery

Illustration of lobectomy

Lobectomy (or the removal of one lobe)

The lungs are divided into sections called lobes. There are two lobes in the left lung and three in the right lung. Lobectomy means the removal of one lobe of the lung. The doctor will recommend a lobectomy if the cancer is contained within one lobe of the lung. Lobectomies are the most common surgery for lung cancer.

Illustration of bilobectomy

Bilobectomy (or the removal of two lobes)

This is a surgery to remove two lobes of the lung.

Illustration of pneumonectomy

Pneumonectomy (the removal of a whole lung)

This surgery is necessary if the cancer is in the centre of the lung and involves all three lobes in the right lung or both lobes in the left. A person can survive with one lung, but your doctor will conduct breathing tests on your before surgery to determine if a pneumonectomy is suitable for you.

Illustration of wedge-resection

Removing a section of lung

If the cancer is diagnosed early and affects only one very small area of the lung, a surgery to remove a particular section of the lung can be carried out. However, if there is suspicion that cancer cells might be present elsewhere in the lung, this surgery will not be recommended.

Illustration of removing-section

Wedge resection

A wedge resection removes an area of the lung that includes part of one or more lobes.

Illustration of segmentectomy


A segmentectomy removes areas of the lung along with their veins, arteries and airways.

Illustration of sleeve-resection

Sleeve resection

This is a less common surgery that might be done if the cancer is in the central area of the lung and is growing into one of the main airways or bronchi. This surgery removes the affected section of the bronchus and any surrounding cancer in the lobe.

Illustration of lymphadentectomy

Lymphadentectomy (or removal of lymph nodes

During surgery, the doctor removes some of the lymph nodes near the lung to check for cancer cells, in case the main cancer has spread. If the lymph nodes contain cancer cells, chemotherapy following surgery is usually recommended.

Surgical methods

Lung cancer removal is performed mostly with open surgery and sometimes, keyhole surgery.

In open surgery, the surgeon perfoms a thoracotomy, which is a cut around the side of the chest which ranges in length.

In keyhole surgery, which can be done in cases of very small, early, non-small cell lung cancers, the surgeon makes one or a number of small cuts on the side of the chest. A laparoscope—a thin, long, flexible tube connected to a fibre optic camera—shows the surgeon the inside of the chest. He then performs the cancer removal through the other cuts.

Cancer Research UK: Lung Cancer - Types of Surgery.
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