Lung Cancer Surgery
Find your care
Why choose UCLA Health for lung cancer surgery?
At UCLA Health, our surgeons lead the nation in advanced surgical techniques to treat lung cancer. When you choose UCLA Health for surgery for cancer, you can expect:
Nationally recognized program: U.S. News & World Report ranks us among the top 5 medical centers in the country for pulmonology and lung surgery. As a designated National Cancer Institute (NCI) comprehensive cancer center, we maintain the highest standards of excellence in patient care, research and treatments.
Excellent surgical outcomes: The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS) rates UCLA Health high for patient care and outcomes associated with lobectomy (surgery to remove a piece of the lung). These surgeries are extremely successful with a very low rate of complications.
Surgery for high-risk patients: Our surgeons operate on patients with lung cancer who also have pre-existing lung diseases. We use advanced techniques and expertise to remove diseased tissue while leaving as much healthy tissue as possible.
Access to clinical trials: We participate in research projects that focus on how surgery works in combination with other cancer therapies. Your care team will present opportunities to participate in lung cancer clinical trials if you’re eligible.
Remote care: If you live far away, we can handle your pre-surgery workup virtually – you only need to travel to UCLA Health at the time of surgery. After lung surgery for cancer, we monitor your vital signs and symptoms remotely for 30 days. While you’re at home, we keep a close eye on your recovery to detect any complications early. We partner with oncologists near your home who can follow our care plan and treat you locally.
Your entire surgical team is by your side every step of the way. We work together to plan your surgery and other treatments and provide support as you recover. We offer:
Multispecialty team approach
When you select UCLA Health, a world-class team of experts meets to review your health and treatment plan. Experienced thoracic surgeons work closely with lung specialists to determine the most appropriate surgical technique for you. You’ll have some of the world’s top surgeons and pulmonologists devoted to your care.
Minimally invasive and traditional procedures
Our thoracic surgeons study the cancer and assess your health before deciding how to proceed with surgery. We take two common approaches to lung cancer surgery:
Minimally invasive surgery: The surgeon makes a few small incisions and uses a camera and specialized instruments to perform the surgery.
Thoracotomy: The surgeon gains access to your lung by making an incision on the back and side of your chest and gently spreading the ribs.
At UCLA Health, we use minimally invasive surgery for lung cancer whenever possible. As a high-volume thoracic surgery program, our surgeons routinely use advanced techniques such as video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) and robot-assisted thoracic surgery (RATS). Both approaches offer superior precision with the benefit of less pain and quicker recovery time. Our goal is to safely and quickly improve your quality of life.
Lung cancer surgery types
Surgery is an effective treatment for lung cancer. For some patients, lung surgery for cancer may be the only treatment needed. When used in combination with other therapies, surgery plays an important role in a comprehensive and personalized treatment plan.
At UCLA Health, our thoracic (lung and chest) surgeons are experts in the diagnosis, staging and management of lung cancer. We are nationally ranked in the top 5 by U.S. News & World Report for lung surgery. Our surgeons perform complicated procedures and use less-invasive techniques whenever possible to remove lung cancer.
The lungs are made up of five lobes (three on the right and two on the left). Depending on the tumor size, location and other factors, your surgeon may remove some or all of a lung lobes or your whole lung. Lung surgery types include:
Lobectomy (lung-sparing surgery)
Lung-sparing surgery is the most common type of lung cancer surgery. During a lobectomy, your surgeon removes (resects) the entire lung lobe affected by cancer. Lobectomies that remove more than one lobe include:
Bilobectomy: If the tumor is in the right lung and involves two lobes, your surgeon may remove both lobes.
Sleeve lobectomy (sleeve resection): If the cancer affects a lobe as well as the main air passage to that lung, your surgeon removes the lobe and a portion of the airway. With this procedure, patients may avoid having the entire lung removed.
During this advanced procedure, your surgeon removes only parts of up to four lung lobes. This technique saves as much healthy tissue as possible. Patients with pre-existing lung disease especially benefit from segmentectomy.
Wedge resection surgery removes the tumor as well as a small wedge-shaped area of lung tissue around the tumor. We typically use this surgery for early-stage lung cancer or small tumors. A wedge resection removes less lung tissue than either a lobectomy or segmentectomy.
Pneumonectomy (lung removal)
Your care team may recommend removing your entire lung if the cancer is too big to remove by lobectomy, or if the cancer is in the center of your lung. Before surgery, you’ll undergo tests to ensure your remaining lung can perform well enough on its own.
Meet our team
Our experienced team includes thoracic surgeons and dedicated nurses who have special training in advanced lung surgery techniques. We work closely with experts in pulmonology, oncology, radiation therapy and radiology to coordinate your care before, during and after surgery.