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A lobectomy is a surgery done to treat lung cancer by removing one or two lobes of the lung. It is a partial lung removal surgery that can be done to remove cancerous lung masses and growths. When done to treat cancer, the goals are to remove as much cancer as possible and to prevent the spread of cancer from the lungs to other parts of the body. 

A lobectomy can also be performed to treat other lung conditions, such as:

  • Tuberculosis (TB)
  • Emphysema
  • Lung abscess (an infection in the lung causing pus to form in the lung)
  • Non-cancerous lung tumors
  • Fungal infection

The lungs are made up of sections called lobes. The right lung has three lobes, and the left lung has two. When one or two lung lobes are removed, the rest of the lung lobes can function normally. 

Your doctor will consider several factors before deciding whether a lobectomy is the right treatment for you, including:

  • The location and size of the tumor
  • Whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes or other areas of your body
  • How well your lungs are functioning
  • How good your overall health is

Recovering from lobectomy

There are two basic parts of recovery from a lobectomy – recovery in the hospital right after surgery and recovery at home. A full recovery may take weeks or even months. During that time, you will have to follow the instructions your healthcare team give you. Adhering to your doctor’s orders is the best way to help your body recover completely.

Recovering in the hospital 

After your surgery, you will stay in the hospital for a few days. While you’re there, doctors and nurses can monitor your vital signs and your overall recovery. They will watch your heart rate and blood pressure, how fast you breathe, and how much oxygen you have in your blood. During this time, you may have to wear nasal tube that will deliver additional oxygen to your body. You may also have a tube in your chest to help drain any fluid buildup. Your doctor may recommend breathing therapy, which will help you learn methods of breathing and coughing that are meant to help your lungs re-expand after surgery. This therapy should help you breathe more easily and may help prevent pneumonia, which is a possible complication of lobectomy. You may be sore, but you shouldn’t feel a lot of pain. You will be asked to move around as much as possible, even walking around the hospital floor. Your doctor or nurse will guide you about when to get out of bed and how much exercise you should get while you’re still in the hospital.

Recovering at home 

When you get home after your lobectomy, you may feel tired and weak. This is normal. You will regain your strength in time. Don’t worry if it doesn’t happen as fast as you’d like it to. Everyone recovers at their own pace. 

It’s important to move around and get up and walk at least a few times per day – even if you’re tired. There are many reasons to keep moving, including blood clot prevention and keeping your lungs working. 

After surgery, you will have some physical limitations. For example, you may not be able to drive for a while, and you should not lift anything heavy. Make sure you talk to your doctor about any limitations and when you will be cleared to get back to your normal routine.

You will also have to follow instructions related to:

  • Which medications you should take and how often you should take them (and what not to take)
  • When to start exercising, what type of exercise you can do, and how often you should do it
  • What you should and shouldn’t drink and how often you should eat and drink
  • How to care for your surgical wound
  • How to bathe to ensure you protect your wound and keep it dry
  • What type of symptoms to look out for and who to contact if you have questions or problems

Things to avoid during recovery for lobectomy

While you’re recovering, you should take steps to avoid illness. Stay away from people who have respiratory infections, such as colds or influenza.

During recovery, you should also avoid certain things, including:

  • Tobacco smoke (you should never smoke, but should also stay away from people who are smoking)
  • Smoke from fires
  • Chemical fumes, like paints and cleaning solutions
  • Environmental pollution
  • Anything that irritates your lungs

When to call your doctor after lobectomy

You should call your healthcare provider whenever you have questions about your recovery. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Never feel like you might bother your doctor with questions. It’s good to ask. 

If you have any signs of an infection or other complications of surgery, including the list below, call your doctor immediately:

  • Fever of 100.4 or higher (or above the limit your doctor recommends)
  • Redness or swelling near the surgical incision
  • Increasing pain anywhere in your body
  • Increasing pain around the incision
  • Shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or pain while breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Coughing up green, yellow, or bloody phlegm
  • Confusion

Lung cancer treatment at Beaumont

Through Beaumont’s Multidisciplinary Lung Cancer program, we develop an individualized treatment plan based on your unique situation. Your doctor will work closely with you to develop the most effective treatment plan for you.