How Difficult is Lung Cancer Surgery ...

How Difficult is Lung Cancer Surgery Recovery?

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TMU

Canton, OH

#1 Jun 5, 2009
My mother is 87 years old and has been diagnosed with lung cancer (early stage). Her only option, as pointed out by doctors, is surgery, to remove the tumor and some surrounding tissue. One of the surgeons told us that, if this were his mother, he would not suggest surgery; not because of the surgery, itself, but because of the recovery process. He is concerned that, at her age and given her age-related diminished lung capacity already, the surgery has a high likelihood of resulting in a very poor quality of life for her. I'm looking for thoughts from others who have experienced the surgery, alone (no radiation or chemotherapy components), to better understand the recovery process so that we can make the right decision for my mother (have her undergo surgery or do nothing to let her enjoy quality of life for as long as possible). Any thoughts are appreciated.
andrea

Canton, OH

#2 Jun 9, 2009
My father just had 20% of his lung removed in April. He is 74 and in great shape except for arthritis. The surgery is gruelling and the doctors all wanted to see him in person to see if he was a viable candidate. He was 6' and 220 pounds going in and 190 pounds coming out. It's been 2 months now since the surgery and he is stiff, can get around with a walker but keeps telling me that he feels weird in the chest. If the cancer stays away he'll be happy he did it, but he's an otherwise healthy person and he's more than 10 years younger than your mom. I think it'll be at least another 4 months before he is able to get out for more than 1 hour. I know it's difficult, but if your mom has other health conditions I would let her enjoy her last years if they can control the pain. I will say that my dad did have radiation prior to the surgery (twice a day for 2 weeks) and it reduced his morphine dose from 300 a day to 30 a day and he could function before the surgery. Prior to the radiation, the pain just kept getting worse and he was confined to the house just trying to get thru another day. Hope this helps you and your family. Hope whatever you decide will be best for you all.
TMU

United States

#3 Jun 18, 2009
Andrea: I want to thank you, sincerely, for your reply. As much as I hate to give up, I believe that you're right regarding the surgery. I worry because I just don't want to see my mother suffer and I want to feel that we've done everything possible, within reason, to ensure her longevity. I have reached out to a cardiothoracic surgeon, in Pittsburgh, who performs a less invasive procedure called radio frequency ablation. He is reviewing my mother's case and said that he would offer his opinion regarding her eligibility for this type of procedure. I'm keeping my hopes up.

Thank you, again, Andrea, and I, too, wish your father the best. I am so sorry to hear of his difficulty but I am so thankful that you shared his experience with me.
Rita

Boca Raton, FL

#4 Sep 3, 2011
Had lower right lobe removed from right lung 7 weeks ago. Was hospitalized 6 days. Doctor said I am healing nicely. I still have a lot of pain in the right breast area, due to a tube that was inserted. Does anyone know about how long until this feels okay? Also, I am still short of breath. Walk in the mall 2-3 times a week but need to stop and catch my breath. Still sleeping on my recliner in the den; too difficult getting in and out of bed. Any suggestions? By the way, I am 77 years old, which probably makes a big difference.
Olga

Manhattan Beach, CA

#5 Sep 11, 2011
My father just got diagnosed with a 1.2 cm tumor in his lung. They are recommending surgery but my father is reall concerned about the post surgery recovery. Any feedback or advice on long term recover would be great. He is 71 and diabetic but excercises daily and has no other health issues
Rita

Boca Raton, FL

#6 Sep 12, 2011
Olga, Doctor told me 6-8 weeks, and he was right. It is now 7 weeks and I am 85% recovered. Still have pain in right breast area, but can do a lot more. His tumor is fortunately very small and might even be benign. Your dad should do as much walking as he can after the surgery and to take things slowly. It's like baby steps, but he will get there. My sister also had this surgery at 72 and she is diabetic and is fully recovered. Please keep in touch as it is a great morale booster to talk with someone else.
Loren

Bismarck, ND

#7 Sep 18, 2011
I am 55 and had my left upper lobe removed 5 weeks ago. I still have alot of pain if I try to do very much. I too seem to be short of breath after any exertion. My tumor was not cancerous but the recovery seems to be the same. I'm just won dering when I will feel well enough to get back to work without so much discomfort. I am self employed as a landscaper really cuts into the income not to be producing. Any chance a person could get on disability from this problem and will I be able to work as I did before the surgery or should a person look for a different form of work and lifestyle?
Rita

Boca Raton, FL

#8 Sep 19, 2011
Just came home from the Pulmonologist. It is now 8 weeks since my surgery, and my breathing level is 96 (out of 100.) He says I am doing very well but need to walk or exercise more. Will go back to the gym and start with stationary bike for 10 minutes and work my way up. The shortness of breath, according to my doctor, is due to lack of exercise; the more you move, the better your breathing becomes. Loren, you should be able to resume all your normal activities, including work, but after a minimum of 3 months, since strength and endurance have to return.
Don't get too depressed and don't try to do more than you should. Your body tells you when to rest.
Hope to hear how you're doing.
Loren

Bismarck, ND

#9 Sep 25, 2011
Rita,I am glad to hear your progressing nicely.It's been 6 weeks now for me and still quite painful if I'm up too much. I keep losing weight too as I have no appetite and only can manage to eat once a day. I've been to a mental health person for the depression and anxiety that has seemed to manifest since about week 4 and feel like just staying in bed most of the time.I didn't have that trouble right away so I don't know what is causing it the pain pills (oxycodone) or the body shock and reaction to the surgery.I get very light headed at times when I get up to walk or even if I walk abit and get short of breath and dizzy and have to stop and rest.Weight loss has been 20# and sleep seems to come easier during the day than at night. I feel my whole system is way out of wack and don't know who to see or talk to about it. Any advise appreciated.
Rita

Boca Raton, FL

#10 Sep 26, 2011
Loren, the cause of your depression is more than likely due to the pain pills. I had crying jags many times. Now I take 2 Tynelol in the morning and 2 at night, no narcotics, and my mood is much better. The lightheadedness is due to shift in blood pressure. When getting up or out of bed, stand in place about 30 seconds for things to stabilize. As far as weight loss goes, I didn't lose any weight - even though I could afford to - but my appetite had diminished. Ate very small portions. I also had to take "water pills" since I was retaining water, plus stool softeners as the oxycodene causes constipation.
To sum up, after 8 weeks I feel pretty good. Am driving again, eating normally and doing most of my normal activities. Hang in there - it does get better, but a lot of patience is required.
Loren

Bismarck, ND

#11 Oct 23, 2011
Hi Rita Well it's been a month since my last post and I thought I would give an update on condition. How are you coming along with your recovery? You were right when I stopped the pain pills my mood made alot of improvement but I still have alot of pain on my chest on the left side. My surgeon says its just a nerve pain but I think it's where they split the two lobes apart. I have a pulmonary doc to see on Nov.3 Also developed a cough of sorts in the last week and hurts like hell to have to do it.I'm in week 11 of recovery working some too long days but on days I take off it doesn't seem like pain is any different. I take alleve twice a day.I still feel out of breath with very much exertion of any type. I guess more time is needed to repair the damage.Let me know how your doing and thanks for all your advice and support.
Loren
Rita

Boca Raton, FL

#12 Oct 24, 2011
Hi, Loren. Nice "talking" to you about our shared surgery. It is much easier to recover when you know there is someone else who understands. It's just 3 months now, and I'm doing much better but not complete. Still get shortness of breath. I try walking in the mall, because doctor said I must exercise, but I stop and rest frequently. Tried to go back to the gym, but am like a beginner. I still have pain by the right rib and under the breast area. It feels very sore, and the slightest pressure hurts, but other than that I am feeling much better. Sorry to learn you are having difficulties with your recovery. It is a very slow process and hopefully you will feel better each day. Try to keep a positive outlook. I hope you have family around to encourage you. I go for a CT Scan and doctor visit early December, then every 4 months for the first year. Ask your pulmonologist about pulmonary therapy. Sometimes it is covered by insurance.
Barbara

Delray Beach, FL

#13 Nov 16, 2011
A few years ago I was diagnosed with lung cancer and underwent radiation and chemo. Recently I was diagnosed with a recurrence of the same lung cancer. There has been discussion about chemo versus surgery.I am thinking of doing chemo again and hopefully avoid the surgery since I see how long and difficult the healing process is. The doctors have not yet made the decision. When I read all these letters, the surgery really scares me.
Rita

Boca Raton, FL

#14 Nov 17, 2011
Barbara, what's the point of chemo and radiation a second time if surgery is going to be needed anyhow? If you have the surgery the cancer should be gone for good, but you might still need chemo, depending upon the size. The surgery is not the problem, it is the recovery. It is now 4 months since I had my surgery and I am back to normal, even go to the gym.
If you want a second opinion, I could recommend my doctor who is affiliated with Boca Raton Regional Hospital and is the top thoracic surgeon. Good luck.
Loren

Bismarck, ND

#15 Nov 19, 2011
Hi Rita & Barb,
Barb like Rita said it's the recovery time that is tough. I am just over 3 months post op now and feel alot better than I did for the first couple of months. Almost to the day of month three the pain in my front side seemed to subside considerably. I still get short of breath but have learned to adjust to it by slowing down a bit when I get too physical. I was bothered by the depression that had settled in after about the first month but getting off of the pain pills seemed to help that quite abit.
I now have more energy than I had prior to the surgery. Granted I had an infection tumor and not cancer but the infection had my energy sapped very badly. Glad your feeling good Rita and I can at last agree that life does get back to normal but it does take awhile and I have found patience with life I didn't know I had before all of this.
Rita

Boca Raton, FL

#16 Nov 20, 2011
Loren, good to hear from you and that you're doing much better. I was thinking about you. I need to go for another CT scan Dec. 6 and then to doctor on Dec. 8, and every 4-6 months after that for five years and hopefully everything will be fine. Feeling like my old self again, but still get tired more often and need to take a break. My right side under the breast still feels sore, but otherwise all okay. I'm sure you're back to work by now also. You said you have more patience now than before; I find that it is not patience, but things that seemed so terribly important before are not and I appreciate my family a lot more for all their help and support. Hope you have a good holiday and stay well.
Rita

Boca Raton, FL

#17 Nov 20, 2011
Barbara, since we are practically neighbors, please let us know what decision you make about surgery or no surgery. You don't mention your age, and as we said, and Loren agreed, the surgery is not the hard part, the recovery takes at least 3-4 months to feel yourself again, but let me tell you that no matter what, you don't want that "thing" growing inside. It is not going to go away by itself and since your other options didn't do such a good job, surgery is probably necessary.

Keep in touch as "talking" to someone who's been through it can understand. Have a good Thanksgiving and keep posting.
Loren

Bismarck, ND

#18 Nov 20, 2011
Rita
Here's to hoping you have a good holiday season if I wouldn't hear from you again. I'm so glad you're feeling better and I can't thank you enough for your support I received so many miles apart but I feel like I've known you forever. After my pain in my chest started to subside I decided I can deal with being short of breath at times. I think the pain uses up alot of our healing energy that could be put to better use in recovering. I have chest x-rays right after New Years and don't expect any surprises.
I've been back to working at about 65% of capacity for the last month. By next spring I'll be as good as I can become after having the time to heal both physically and adjust to the changes mentally.
You take care and stay in touch.
Loren
Loren

Bismarck, ND

#19 Nov 20, 2011
Barb
Ditto with everything Rita has said. I too would want to stop this thing with whatever means it will take. As far as surgery ask about using the Da Vinci method as it is alot less invasive and recovery is not such a pain. Good luck to you and stay in touch. This forum is a wonderful place to meet people in the exact same place as you are.
Loren
Marylyn

Kingston, TN

#20 Dec 5, 2011
TMU wrote:
My mother is 87 years old and has been diagnosed with lung cancer (early stage). Her only option, as pointed out by doctors, is surgery, to remove the tumor and some surrounding tissue. One of the surgeons told us that, if this were his mother, he would not suggest surgery; not because of the surgery, itself, but because of the recovery process. He is concerned that, at her age and given her age-related diminished lung capacity already, the surgery has a high likelihood of resulting in a very poor quality of life for her. I'm looking for thoughts from others who have experienced the surgery, alone (no radiation or chemotherapy components), to better understand the recovery process so that we can make the right decision for my mother (have her undergo surgery or do nothing to let her enjoy quality of life for as long as possible). Any thoughts are appreciated.
I was 72 and had surgery for the removal of my middle lobe of my right lung. I had no chemo or radiation and I am doing very well. I walk on my treadmill 30 to 40 minutes every day. I had an 18 inch incision and it was very painful for week, pretty painful for another week and then uncomfortable for another 2 weeks. Make sure she has a good thoracic surgeon and that she has a positive outlook and wants to do well after her surgery. Good luck.

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