Surgery for lung cancer offers a chance for a cure - something that is unfortunately uncommon with lung cancer. But in offering that chance, we don't often talk about what happens in the long run after surgery. A time we now call "survivorship."
How good is quality of life over the long run for people who have had lung cancer surgery?
The results of a new study are - fortunately - not what I would have expected. And they left me feeling very encouraged and optimistic for people whose lung cancers are found in the early stages when surgery is possible.
Researchers took a look at 830 disease-free lung cancer survivors (disease free meaning that no evidence of cancer can be found on exam or through imaging studies.) All of these survivors had stage 0 to stage 3 lung cancer that was treated with surgery.
Comparing this group to people without lung cancer (the general population) they found that there wasn't a significant difference in functioning. Fortunately, there also was no significant difference in most of the symptoms experienced by the two groups.
As would be expected, lung cancer survivors who underwent surgery did have more shortness of breath, coughing and chest wall pain, and also experienced more financial problems.
What this study offers is good news for those people who are preparing for lung cancer surgery. Not only might it grant the chance for a cure, but symptoms and general functioning after the surgery are similar to those people who haven't had lung cancer surgery.
Photo: National Cancer Institute, unknown photographer
Yun, Y. et al. Health-Related Quality of Life in Disease-Free Survivors of Surgically Treated Lung Cancer Compared With the General Population. Annals of Surgery. 2012 Mar 30. (Epub ahead of print).