Surgery is the most



Surgery is typically an option when:

Your cancer is localized in the lung and shows no spread or minimal spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Your lungs are strong enough that your breathing will be mostly unaffected if a section of your lung is removed.

Your doctor thinks all the cancer can be removed.

Your general health is good enough to undergo the procedure.2

Surgery is occasionally used for small cell lung cancer, as well, if it is limited.

Know the treatments

Stage Surgical Treatment Options
IA, IB Surgery sometimes followed by chemotherapy
IIA, IIB Surgery followed by chemotherapy and possibly radiation
IIIA Surgery followed by radiation and may have chemotherapy before or after surgery
People who have stage IIIB and stage IV non-small cell lung cancers are usually not considered surgical candidates. However, there are certain circumstances where surgery might be indicated for advanced stage disease.3

Understand the procedures

Wedge resection3,4

In a wedge resection, the surgeon removes a small wedge-shaped piece of lung that contains the cancer.

Some healthy tissue around the cancer is also removed — to help ensure there is an adequate margin around the tumor. In a majority of cases, wedge resection is performed as a way of obtaining a surgical biopsy.

During the procedure, a pathologist reviews the specimen to help the surgeon determine if a cancer operation (either a segmentectomy or lobectomy) is necessary.


This treatment option involves the removal of a segment, or sub-unit, of the lung and its draining lymph nodes. It’s more than a wedge, but less than a lobectomy. And it may be a suitable alternative to preserve lung function for patients whose health problems prevent a lobectomy.


This is the most common procedure to treat lung cancer.

This surgery removes the lobe containing the tumor and associated lymph nodes. Later examination of the removed lymph nodes provides insight into long-term survival and the need for additional therapy.

Importantly, lungs can function normally with the remaining lobes.


This procedure removes the entire lung.

This usually means the tumor is centrally located, right next to the heart, and involves the main blood vessels to the lung.

Depending on the location, size, and type of lung cancer, part of the lung or the entire lung is removed.


The risk associated with surgery may depend on the type of surgery, your medical history, and your functional status. Collaborating with your medical doctors and your surgeon will help determine your individual risk.

Educate yourself in the fight against lung cancer

An informational guide to help patients understand the diagnosis, staging, and surgical treatment options for lung cancer.


  1. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version Stages 1A and IB NSCLC Treatment. National Cancer Institute website. Accessed September 27, 2016.
  2. Chesnutt MS, Prendergast TJ, Tavan ET. Pulmonary Disorders. In:Papadakis M, McPhee SJ, Rabow MW, eds. Current Medical Diagnosis and Treatment. 47th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education; 2008:203–243.
  3. Treatment choices for non-small cell lung cancer, by stage. American Cancer Society website. Accessed September 27, 2016.
  4. Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer: Treatment by Stage. Webmd website. Accessed September 27, 2016.
  5. Lung Cancer Diseases and Conditions. Cleveland Clinic website. Accessed September 27, 2016.
  6. NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms. National Cancer Institute website. Accessed September 27, 2016.