Thoracic surgery is an option for some mesothelioma cancer patients. There are several types of thoracic (chest) surgery that may be appropriate for an individual with mesothelioma cancer, but the choice of surgery is a decision that a patient will need to make together with his or her physician(s). Thoracic lung surgery can help to remove tumors and other conditions and is just one of the mesothelioma surgery options available.

Thoracic surgeons are the physicians who take care of the thorax, the part of the body between the neck and the abdomen, including the:

  • Lungs
  • Heart
  • Esophagus
  • Large blood vessels surrounded by the breastbone, ribs, and vertebral column

A patient with mesothelioma cancer may be referred to a thoracic surgeon for mesothelium treatment. After taking further tests and gathering information, the thoracic surgeon may recommend surgery, a transplant, or a less invasive mesothelioma treatment.

Thoracic Surgeons Treating Chest Illnesses

Thoracic surgeons provide treatment for conditions that can affect more body systems than those located in the chest, such as:

  • cancers of the lung, esophagus, and chest wall (including mesothelioma and lung cancers)
  • tumors in the chest-cavity organs (including those caused by asbestos exposure)
  • transplants of the lungs and heart
  • coronary artery disease
  • abnormalities of the heart valves and great vessels
  • birth defects of the heart

Subfields of Thoracic Surgery

There are several subspecialties of thoracic surgery:

  • General thoracic surgery – focusing on surgery and other mesothelioma treatments, lung cancer (small-cell lung cancer and non-small-cell lung cancer), asbestosis, lung transplantation, emphysema, esophageal cancer, gastroesophageal reflux, and chest wall tumors
  • Cardiac surgery – focusing on diseases of the heart, its valves, the great vessels (aorta and vena cava) in the chest, and the blood supply to the heart
  • Congenital heart surgery – focusing on the correction of congenital heart defects, including pediatric heart transplants

Training for Thoracic Surgeons

Thoracic surgeons are highly educated specialist MDs. After their medical school training, thoracic-surgeons-in-training must:

  • spend up to five years in a general surgical residency
  • devote another two to three years to a thoracic surgery residency
  • pass the American Board of Thoracic Surgery certifying examination

Types of Thoracic Surgery for Mesothelioma Cancer

The type of thoracic surgery will depend on several factors such as the extent of the mesothelioma cancer, the health of the patient, and the prognosis for a good outcome after surgery. It is important to consider all these treatment options as you choose the best mesothelioma surgery for the progression of your symptoms.

  • Pleurectomy and Decortication: In this surgery, part of the covering of the lungs and lining of the chest and part of the outside surface of the lungs are removed.
  • Wide Local Excision: This is used to remove both the cancer and some of the healthy tissue around it (a “wide” excision).
  • Pleurodesis: A chemical is used to make a scar between the layers of the pleura, and unwanted fluid is drained from the space via a chest tube. The chemical is put into the space, and the resulting scarring blocks the fluid build-up in the pleural cavity.
  • Extrapleural Pneumonectomy: An entire lung and part of the lining of the chest, the lining of the sac around the heart, and the diaphragm are removed.
  • Lung transplant: One or both lungs are removed and then replaced with healthy lungs from a donor.

Additional Mesothelioma Therapy

Even if all of the tumor tissue that could be found during the thoracic surgery was removed, it may be necessary to administer radiation therapy or chemotherapy later in order to kill any cancer cells that are left. Such treatment that is given after surgery is called “adjuvant” therapy. If your condition requires this, your doctor can tell you your treatment plan after you have your thoracic lung surgery.

Learn More about Thoracic Surgery Options

The more you know about mesothelioma treatment alternatives, the better the decisions you can make, whether you yourself have mesothelioma cancer or your loved one has been diagnosed with this cancer. If you or someone you know has received a diagnosis of mesothelioma or another asbestos-caused disease, you can consult a thoracic surgeon for a medical opinion or treatment. We’re happy to share all the information we have about thoracic surgery for mesothelioma cancer with you; feel free to contact Mesothelioma Treatment Centers. An attorney may be able to help you find assistance paying for the treatment due to asbestos. We can help you find a lawyer for your needs.

Thoracic Surgery (English) / Cirugia Toracica (Spanish)