Video-Guided Lung Cancer Surgery

October 28, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
It ranks as one of the deadliest types of cancer. The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is only 16 percent. For those who catch it early, there's a new, less invasive option to help boost those odds.For Jennifer Hoppick, smoking was just something that ran in the family.

"Everyone in my family always smoked, all their lives, and no one ever got lung cancer," Hoppick told Ivanhoe.

The 61-year smoker thought she was in the clear until she was diagnosed with early stage lung cancer. Her doctor heard something abnormal in her chest.

"He sent me to get a chest x-ray, and that's where it started," Hoppick said. "I absolutely had no symptoms at all."

Traditionally, life-saving treatment meant a 10-inch incision between the ribs and surgeons spreading the rib cage in order to reach cancerous lobes. Now, there's a new, less invasive approach for those who catch their cancer early. It's called video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, or VATS.

"We're now using smaller keyhole incisions and telescopes with long instruments to do the work that we used to do with our hands," Michael A. Smith, M.D., a thoracic surgeon at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix, Ariz., told Ivanhoe.

Surgeons make two or three-inch-long incisions at the rib cage to insert a tiny camera and tools. Guided by the images on the video screen, doctors find the diseased lobe and pull it out without spreading the ribs.

For Hoppick, it meant a shorter hospitalization and a surprisingly fast recovery.

"I went back to work after three weeks," she said.

"And the good thing, too, is that the data shows that there's no difference in the long-term outcome after this procedure," Dr. Smith added. "So it's still a good cancer operation for early stage lung cancer."

Now, Hoppick is cancer free ? and on a mission to stay that way, saying yes to a healthier lifestyle, and no to cigarettes.

If caught in its first stage, lung cancer patients have an almost 90 percent chance of surviving for more than 10 years. Surgeons are also using the VATS procedure for diagnosing certain pneumonia infections and tumors of the chest wall and in treating collapsing lungs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Carmelle Malkovich
Public Relations
St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center
Phoenix, AZ
(602) 406-3319
Carmelle.malkovich@chw.edu

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