Advancements in technology improve lung cancer treatment options

Published 9:50 am Tuesday, November 21, 2023

By Lance Gaither 

On Nov. 1, the Ephraim McDowell Lung Center hosted a seminar at the Danville Country Club to raise awareness about lung cancer rates in Kentucky. During the presentation, Ephraim McDowell Lung Center Thoracic Surgeon Dr. Wayne Holley presented the option of minimally invasive surgery to treat early stage lung cancer available in Danville.

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Patients undergoing surgery have the highest five-year survival rate for the treatment of early lung cancer compared with those who undergo other methods. He said roughly 20% of the patients who are biopsied have evidence of the cancer progressing to more advanced stages that require treatments such as chemotherapy.

“There are other techniques for early stage lung cancer,” Holley said. “They a great, but they are designed to remove the primary lesion itself with out getting us information lymphoid size. Surgery at the early state not only removes the tumor, it informs us on how to move forward.”

Advancements in technology translate to dramatically lower risks for invasive procedures, such as removal of a lung, than in the past, he said. Compared with a traditional thoracotomy, the minimally invasive surgery has far less “insult” to the patient, said Holley. Patients who would be ineligible for a thoracotomy due to high risk now might be eligible for minimally invasive surgery.    

“It has less risk of death and complications, that has been proven,” Holley said. “There is less pain or risk of infection. All the thoracotomys I have performed over the years, I wonder how many poor souls became addicted to narcotics.”

He explained that only an overnight stay is needed after minimally invasive surgery and most patients only need over the counter pain medication. For patients who need further treatment after the surgery, the wait time before chemotherapy or radiation can be administered is far shorter than a thoracotomy.

“The whole idea is the sooner you can get chemotherapy, the better the results,” Holley said.          

Holley explained that the high cost of the advanced equipment used to perform minimally invasive surgery is offset by drastically lower risk of complications.