Minimally invasive surgery a new option for early stage lung cancer patients

Quicker and less painful recovery due to no fracturing or spreading of ribs

SAN ANTONIO – Lobectomies are the “gold standard surgery” for early stage lung cancer, but a new, minimally invasive surgical procedure that entails no great trauma to the chest wall is helping patients recover more quickly and without as much pain as the traditional operation.

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, also known as VATS, is a less-invasive option than the traditional large incision and rib-separating procedure used to remove cancerous tumors from the lung. A camera lens on the tip of a scope allows the surgeon to look inside the chest cavity without opening the chest. Dr. Daniel DeArmond, a thoracic surgeon at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, says that the VATS procedure, which uses four or five small incisions to fit the instruments into the chest cavity, results in a much easier recovery for the patient.

“The main difference is that we neither fracture nor spread the ribs,” said Dr. DeArmond, also a physician at The Cancer Therapy & Research Center at The UT Health Science Center Thoracic Cancer Clinic. “Studies have shown that the complication rate post-operatively is less and that the patient recovery time is shorter. Patients are able to get back to their normal activity more quickly, and that is crucial.”

Only about 10 percent of lobectomies are performed in this less-invasive procedure. Dr. DeArmond wants patients with early stage lung cancer to know that this option is available.

According to the American Cancer Society’s 2007 Cancer Facts and Figures, approximately 213,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer and another 160,000 will die of the disease. If lung cancer is found at a very early stage and removed, survival rate after five years is about 80 percent.


The Cancer Therapy & Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, located in San Antonio, Texas, is one of the nation’s leading academic research and treatment centers, serving more than 4.4 million people in the high-growth corridor of Central and South Texas including Austin, San Antonio, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. CTRC is one of a few elite cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center and is one of only three in Texas. CTRC handles more than 120,000 patient visits each year and is a world leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer. The CTRC Institute for Drug Development is internationally recognized for conducting the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug trials program in the world, and participated in the clinical and/or preclinical development of many of the cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit

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