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Update on Surgery - Looking for others who have had VATS

Puggle's picture
Posts: 90
Joined: Aug 2011

Hello everyone, I have been posting on the head and neck boards but, unfortunately, I need to post over here as well. I'm the caretaker for my husband who has recently completed treatment for H&N cancer. His 6 month scan showed that he is clear from the neck up but a spot on his lung that they have been watching from the start grew a bit.

Due to kidney issues from the chemo he has gone through (cisplatin) he cannot get contrast with his scans so the doctor referred him to a thoracic surgeon to have a bronchoscopy. Nothing could be seen blocking the airways and the samples came back negative. Since they couldn't actually biopsy the abnormality a needle biopsy was scheduled and came back positive for adenocarcinoma.

If there is any good news in this, it is that the cancer is a new primary and not spread from the neck. The doctors have said that the tumor seems smaller than originally thought and it's in a "good" place meaning there isn't much around it. It is in the right middle lobe.

He is scheduled for VATS surgery Wednesday and will have the middle and lower right lobe removed. The surgeon said that they will test the lymph nodes and stage the cancer but, as of right now, it looks like he may not need any follow up chemo.

We have been told 2 - 5 days in the hospital and then when he is released he will need to walk to build up his lung function and will even be able to drive when he is off the pain meds (which we were told will be just a few more days).

Is this recovery consistent with what others have gone through? Any suggestions for before or after the surgery to make things easier?

catcon49's picture
Posts: 398
Joined: Aug 2008

I am so sorry to hear about your husband. Good news that it is not a met from previous cancer. Vats surgery is a breeze, considering what they use to do. I had lower right lobe remove with Stage 1a adenocarcinoma lung cancer. I was up walking that night. As far as surgeries go it was pretty easy. I took some pain meds but tried to stay away from them. I was in the hospital 4 days. The worse of the surgery for me was constipation. Good luck to you and your husband


ellenm4's picture
Posts: 124
Joined: Dec 2011

Everyone is different and responds differently to meds and surgeries as well. I had VATS Dec 7, 2011. But it was only for a wedge resection. The surgery went fine but was in ICU for 3 days and then 3 days in a regular room. I had 2 drain tubes and was able to go home the day after they were removed. I will be heading back tomorrow morning for a thoracotomy on the left upper lobe to be removed. Just make sure you do breathing excerise and walk some everyday. This helps with the breathing, healing and somewhat on the pain. The biggest part of my pain was from the drain tubes. The small cuts were a little uncomfortable for about a week. I only had stitches where the drain tubes were, the other cuts the doctor used this glue stuff....I love that stuff! I would rather have this as VATS, but my surgeon says he will not do the LUL (left upper lobe)by VATS. Good luck with this and keep us posted. You both are in my prayers. Think positive!!

soccerfreaks's picture
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sep 2006

I am both a head/neck cancer and lung cancer survivor, and the VATS technique was used to remove my lowest right lobe. Both of my cancers were squamous cell carcinoma and I was bluntly told that if they determine the cancer in the lung was metastasis from the head/neck, they would not do the lobectomy but would instead put me into palliative care, using only chemotherapy to try to hold off anticipated continuing growth.

I was HOPING to wake from my biopsy without the lobe, and fortunately got my wish (it IS odd what we wish for as cancer survivors!). When I did, I had a rather small smiley face under my right arm pit along with two tubes in my side that extended to a machine that collected drainage.

I do not recall any significant pain, probably because I received excellent pain management from my doctors. I did so well that I expected to be home on day 4 following surgery. Regrettably, the night before, I suffered what they thought at first was a pulmonary embolism, and then MRSA, the staph infection, but which turned out to be somewhat milder MSSA. Still, I ended up in the hospital for an additional month, approximately. This, of coure, is not what you or your husband should expect.

At any rate, if they still do things like they did in early 2008, hubbie can expect to have some breathing toys to play with during and after his stay (a spirometer among them), and he may be coughing up chunks of stuff. Depending on the nature of his oral cancer surgery, he may find that the most difficult part of the entire experience is when they slide the breathing tube down his trachea, for which he is required to be awake.

Once I escaped (:)) I had the option to undergo chemotherapy (carboplatin and taxol) to slay the strays as I call it, and I chose that route.

I was dx'd with head/neck cancer in August of 05 and am all clear in that regard now, more than six years later. I was originally dx'd with lung cancer in June of 07 (a long story) and have been NED since, except that my most recent CT scan revealed "a 5mm opacity" in the lower left lobe. OncoMan seems not so concerned and wants to wait three months for another scan to see if it is growing.

If I can be of any help, please let me know.

It IS true, as longtermsurvivor indicates in the head/neck forum, that I have a "book-long blog on here" (:)) and if you are interested, it can be found doing a member search for soccerfreaks (one word, plural).

Best wishes to hubbie and his family and friends.

Take care,


z's picture
Posts: 1414
Joined: May 2009

Hello, Great that this isn't a met. I too had a anal cancer, and then due to the follow up scans the lung nodule was found in the lower right lobe. Mine was a squamous cell and it was determined not to be a met as it had no hpv, whereas, the anal cancer did.

My family told friends they were glad I had lung cancer, (lol), and then they had to explain themselves, for the fact it wasn't a metasis. As soccerfreaks said its funny what you wish for.

I had the vats, and was in the hospital 3 days. I was back to full time physical work in a month, and my dr cleared me to do everything at my physical job. I too could drive right away, not on the pain meds of course.

I wish you and your husband well. Lori

Puggle's picture
Posts: 90
Joined: Aug 2011

Thanks so much for the input. At this point we just want to get this over with. I'm glad that everyone that had the surgery is saying that the recovery truly isn't that bad. He's been through so much already and I hate to see him have to suffer through a long recovery time. I'm hoping the doctor's don't feel that chemo is necessary since he is still dealing with the side effects from the cisplatin he already had. Not sure if his body can deal with more chemo.

Soccerfreaks... I also responded to your post on the H&N board. Thanks so much for the info and support. All of the people on these boards are wonderful and so kind.

I will post after the surgery on Wednesday and let everyone know how it went.

Puggle's picture
Posts: 90
Joined: Aug 2011

The surgery went well but just took longer than expected. There were adhesions all the way up the ribs connected to the lungs from an old car accident. The doctor really wanted to complete the whole surgery with the scope so he took 2 hours to cut through and clear all of the adhesions before he could actually start the real surgery. Thank God for a doctor that has extreme patience! We were at the hospital at 7am, took him back to the OR at 9 and didn't get to see in in recovery until 5:30. Long day! The middle and bottom right lobes were removed which gave ample margin tissue as well as a lot of lymph nodes for testing. Hopefully he will not need follow up chemo. He was fully off of the ventilator and breathing well on his own but the doctor wanted him in ICU at least over night. Just really glad the surgery is over and hopefully this will be the last of the cancer!

z's picture
Posts: 1414
Joined: May 2009

I am so glad your husband had a very caring surgeon, that will make all the difference to his recovery as it sounds like the dr took his time and did it right. Its also is great that hes off the ventilator. Now he just needs to recover from the surgery and hopefully go home soon. I wish you and your husband well. Lori

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