Lung Cancer Surgery Recovery – 5 Recovery Tips from Patients

Posted October 10th, 2018 by

PatientsLikeMe members have talked in the forums about what it’s like to recover from lung cancer surgery – and what most doctors don’t tell you. We’ve gathered some helpful post-surgery hints members have shared. (Hint: Join PatientsLikeMe for access to the Lung Cancer Forum.)

lung cancer surgery recovery 1

Many members have mentioned that the side effects of a lobectomy or other lung surgery can be more intense than they expected. “I had a right upper lobectomy 2 years ago – still have lots of pain and numbness – bras suck!” one member says.

“The surgeon wasn’t very informative and my doctor, bless his heart, hasn’t ever had a patient like me so doesn’t really know what’s normal and what’s not,” says another member. “I’m very thankful for this site, I have learned a lot from it.”

What can help?

  • Finding the right bra. Wear a looser sports bra, an old bra (without underwire) or a stretchy camisole with soft cups, to give some breast support but nothing too restrictive.
  • Setting yourself up for sleep. Stomach sleepers will need to get used to sleeping on their back or (maybe) side. Sleeping in a recliner, or using pillows or foam wedges to find a decent position in bed, can help you catch some Zzzs.
  • Treating your incision with care. Cold or rainy weather, and even chilly air-conditioning, can make scars extra sensitive, so try to stay warm and dry. One member advises applying vitamin E and unscented skin cream to help with healing.
  • Managing your pain. Members report using prescribed pain meds, Lidocaine patches, pain-relief ointment (like Icy Hot) and heating pads to deal with some of the pain.
  • Taking it easy. Go “very slow in the beginning,” says one member. “Resting on your back a lot, taking short and slow walks, not twisting the body, not carrying (heavy) things, not running, taking the stairs slowly… With these things, I was OK eight months after my operation. But I’m still very careful…”

Another word to the wise? Ask your doctor right away about any symptoms you’re not sure are normal, such as breathing issues, coughing or bleeding.

On PatientsLikeMe, more than 50 people have reported having surgery as part of their lung cancer treatmentLung lobectomy is the most commonly reported type of surgery, followed by pneumonectomy and lung wedge resection (click on these links to see treatment reports — logged-in members have access to more information).

Also, check out our recent write-up on some newer and less invasive procedures for lung cancer.

Have you had lung cancer surgery or will you be undergoing this procedure soon? Join our patient community or log in to see what else members have shared about recovering from lung cancer surgery.

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  1. I wish I had known this before I had (5) Five Surgeries and only had (1) One. . I Should have gone to Our Local Cancer Center first. They sent me to Dr. in Houston. Best thing I did. Everything is Gone But That’s OK, So is the Cancer..

  2. I had lung surgery and still have pain, still cough alot and sneeze. When i cough my muscle puffs out, feels really weird. Pain in my lft arm and a fatty tissue that hurts.

  3. I had my lower lobe removed. August 24th. It’s now October 17th.
    I went and am going thru such an emotional rollercoaster. I was having panic attacks, along with anxiety. Is this normal?
    Also even though they took out my lower lobe and 13 lymph nodes. In the back of my mind I think, what if it comes back? I try not to think that way. But it’s a reality.

  4. I had my right lung removed a year ago. Male 64 years old stage 3 cancer but not outside the lung. Had extensive radiation and strong chemo lasting 5 weeks prior to operation. The chemo was rough but you know that. So I’m alive and now cancer free. Hoping it stays away. Getting CT scans every three months to confirm. I didn’t smoke and was good physical shape. My life has changed completely although I’m trying to get back to somewhat normal. I spent hours in rehab, helps some not much. Had real problems eating so I took medicine designed for folks with eating disorders. I lost 35ish pounds the first few months. I have managed to gain back about 5 pounds. I cough and sneeze a lot. I have very little motivation even with a very supportive family. It’s been rough losing 2/3 of my lungs in that three lobes are in the right lung. My ribs still hurt but taking no pain pills. My scar is sensitive as well. I’ve bee to the hospital 4 or 5 times for dehydration. I was admitted to the hospital for 5 days in palative medicine for tremors in my right foot. I’m doing all I know to do to recover but it’s been slow and a struggle for sure. The good news is I don’t have cancer!

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