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How to Find a Lung Cancer Surgeon - Info Line Call of the Week


Each week, LCA fields hundreds of calls and e-mails from people who need information about lung cancer prevention, risk, early detection, treatment, and survivorship. This is a summary of the information provided in one of those calls.

A woman whose brother was diagnosed with stage IA lung cancer called the LCA Information Line. She had questions about how to find a surgeon who could help her brother. He went into surgery but the cardiac surgeon said he wasn’t able to remove the cancer because there was too much scar tissue from a prior heart procedure. His treatment team recommended chemo and radiation instead.


The caller asked all the right questions. She wondered if a cardiac surgeon was the right professional to do the surgery. She knows someone who is a thoracic surgeon in a city two hours from where her brother lives who feels confident he can remove the tumor. She trusts him but wanted to know more information about lung cancer surgery and how to check the accreditation of a surgeon.


Finding lung cancer early is so important. It is equally critical to find a surgeon who understands the disease and does a lot of lung cancer surgeries. But what should you know?

  • Some thoracic surgeons do both cardiac and general thoracic surgery. You should find one who ONLY does general thoracic surgery. Finding a general thoracic surgeon who specializes in lung cancer surgeries is ideal. While a cardiac surgeon may be capable of doing the surgery, he or she may not have received the same training and guidance or have as much experience in doing a full evaluation of the lymph nodes in the center of the chest (the mediastinum) to be sure that he or she know exactly where the cancer is. This is significant for follow up care and continued treatment decision making. 
  • Ask how long the surgeon has been in practice so you can evaluate this based on your own comfort level. Obviously, the longer the surgeon has been in practice, the more surgeries he or she has done.
  • The surgeon should be certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgeons (ABTS), or should be eligible and be able to tell you when they will sit for the exam. The ABTS website states: “The primary purpose and most essential function of the Board is to protect the public by establishing and maintaining high standards in thoracic surgery.” You can check to see if your surgeon is certified by calling ABTS at their office in Chicago at 1 (312) 202-5900.
  • Ask how many lung cancer operations the surgeon does in a year. There is no standard but a surgeon in a large city such as New York should do more than 50 a year.


Discussing her brother’s case and the best way to find an experienced and confident surgeon made the caller feel it was worth getting a second opinion from the general thoracic surgeon.  


LCA is here to help! Call our toll-free information line at 1 (800) 298-2436.


From Maureen, TeamLCA

Views: 41

Tags: surgery


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Comment by John H MOD on April 8, 2011 at 8:56pm
That call certainly helped to put how and why you should Do little leg work on your medical team. it doesn't hurt anyone to ask for thier qualifications and experience. You would if you want a good car mechanic why wouldn't you for your body. Just my 2 cents.
Take care all, John

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