Tips for Lung Cancer Surgery Recovery

5 Tips for Life After Lung Cancer Surgery

Support After Lung Cancer SurgeryYour body just went through a significant afront, and returning to regular life at home after lung cancer surgery can be daunting. Hopefully, you have a support network in place to help you adjust. But, if you could use an extra hand on your back as you recover, we are here to remind you that you are not alone in this. Our members are walking the walk alongside you – many have blazed the trail ahead.

Including PLM member and lung cancer survivor Jacquie1961: read her story if you need encouragement today.

If you’ve had a lobectomy, the most common form of lung cancer surgery, your body is getting used to functioning with less lung tissue. That’s a major operation, and healing will take time.

To help your recovery along, we recently asked the PatientsLikeMe community to share their recommendations for getting through the recovery process. We’ve gathered some helpful post-surgery pointers members have shared. (Reminder: Visit PatientsLikeMe to join in the discussion in our Lung Cancer Forum.)

Find Comfortable Clothes

Clothes Hanging on a RackMany members have mentioned that the side effects of a lobectomy or other lung surgery can be more intense than they expected. They found that they were incredibly sensitive and that constricting clothing made it worse.

“I had a right upper lobectomy and had lots of pain and numbness – bras suck! Stick to something that is flowing, and you will be thankful!” – PLM Member

Try wearing 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. Old t-shirts and lightweight long sleeve shirts can also be helpful.

Set Yourself Up for a Good Night’s 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.

“I got a comfortable recliner that almost lays entirely horizontal, I prop two pillows on either side of me, and it keeps me in a comfortable position to sleep. It isn’t the same as sleeping on my stomach, but I am getting used to it, and I can at least get some rest!” – PLM Member

Treat Your Incision with Care – Be on the Lookout for Infection

Applying Vitamin E

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.

If anything looks or feels off or you develop a fever, do not hesitate to reach out to your doctor to ensure you do not have an infection.

Try Different Methods for Managing Your Pain

After a major surgery, it is very common to take prescribed pain medication to help you manage the discomfort. PLM members also offered some alternative methods for managing their pain, including Lidocaine patches, pain-relief ointment (like Icy Hot), and heating pads.

“I also decided to try massage therapy to work around the scar and damaged nerves. The massage definitely helped soothed it” PLM Member | Webster22

Keep moving but take it easy.

Woman Walking In FoliageGo “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…”

I participated in an intensive pulmonary rehabilitation program three days a week for 3 hours each day, and the program lasted 12 weeks. I noticed that after each session, I was getting stronger. PLM Member | Eliz1949

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 treatment. Lung lobectomy is the most commonly reported type of surgery, followed by pneumonectomy and lung wedge resection.

Also, check out our write-up on some 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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4 thoughts on “5 Tips for Life After Lung Cancer Surgery”

  1. cathy mitchamore

    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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