7 Things to Known Before a Lung Lobectomy

by Brittany McNabb

A lung lobectomy is a treatment of lung cancer and is typically performed on patients with cases of lung cancer that have not spread to other parts of the body. Tumor size, type, and location are major factors of whether a lobectomy or lung surgery is the appropriate plan of action. During a lung lobectomy, the part of the lung with cancer cells is surgically removed. 

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If a lung lobectomy is a part of your treatment plan, here are some things WhatNexters wish they had known before having the procedure themselves.

Things to know...

1. How it may affect their overall lifestyle.

Some WhatNexters wish they had asked their doctor about lifestyle changes after the lobectomy including limited mobility they might experience and possible side effects of the lung surgery.

"I would ask how they expect this to affect your overall lifestyle. If your remaining lung is healthy you can do very well. I had a right pneumonectomy (the entire right lung removed) 9 years ago, and a healthy left lung is enough. Ask about limits on lifting after the surgery so you can have an idea of how it will affect you at home. With a large incision between the ribs you may be very limited for weeks and depending on your lifestyle you might need physical therapy to strengthen those back and shoulder muscles. I had young kids at the time so lifting was a big issue for me. It's scary, but it's amazing how strong our lungs can be." - jenleahlynn

2. If an epidural is part of the plan and what it would be like waking up after surgery.

An epidural may help block pain during and after the surgery; WhatNexters wish they had asked about details like these so they would not be as confused when they woke up from the surgery.

"I had an epidural, it blocked the pain totally for the first three days. When I woke up I had a catheter bag attached, and a chest tube as well. A physical therapist came to get me out of bed the next day." - Peaches22

3. To practice deep breathing exercises before and after surgery.

One WhatNexter said that practicing deep breathing exercises before surgery helped make her better at doing them after cancer surgery.

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"I would also ask if you care team could show you breathing exercises to help you practice taking deeper breaths before the surgery. It's hard to explain, but using your abdominal muscles like a singer would makes a big difference and it becomes natural to take those deeper breathes." - jenleahlynn

4. That even though you might start to feel stronger it is still important to pace yourself.

Some have set themselves back during recovery because they tried too much too soon.

"It is up to you when you get home on how far you get back to yourself. Walks are the best at first, although I should have left my dog at home. I made the mistake of taking mine out a few weeks after surgery, her 150 pounds was enough to make me hurt for two weeks after. I have to say that for as much as I was terrified of the surgery, it went much better than expected. They have this stuff down to a fine art these days." - Peaches22

5. To expect to see a respiratory therapist as well as a physical therapist.

It may comfort patients to know that they will be taken care of after a lobectomy with attention from both a respiratory therapist that will help with breathing and a physical therapist that can help with movement and exercise.

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"Post-op I was seen by a Respiratory Therapist as well as Physical Therapist. The Respiratory Therapist was key in breathing well after surgery and helping me adjust to a different lung capacity than I had pre-op." - LuvinSis

6. To be prepared for sleeping changes and other adjustment at home especially for the first 2 weeks of recovery.

As always, try to prepare your home for recovery; you can ask your doctor how to prepare for the time after lung surgery. It might help to collect pillows for propping yourself up in bed, have things like a water bottle and medications accessible by your bed, and to have meals prepared ahead of time.

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"I had my right upper lobe removed and a sleeve retraction. The first few days once I was home was uncomfortable for me as well. I found that sleeping with my upper portion of my body elevated and laying on my back helped and also making sure I took my pain meds as prescribed. It got much better towards the end of week 2 after the surgery." - CDawson

7. That there might be further treatment.

Some patients that have undergone a lobectomy have recovered from the surgery and entered remission; some have had chemotherapy or radiation therapy after. Hope for the best but prepare for the worst. 

"I had a lobectomy (upper right lobe) and was told because it was so small and caught so early that I would not need further treatment. It was about 5 days later that the pathology report came back and showed microscopic cells. My choice was do the chemo treatments or wait until these little cells turned into something. I opted for the chemo. It was not a fun time but I got thru it and am now 1+ yr survivor." - Sassy_1421

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