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Fox Chase Cancer Center Offers Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery for Some Lung Cancers

PHILADELPHIA-People with small lung cancers may benefit from a new use of an existing technology at Fox Chase Cancer Center called video-assisted thoracic (chest) surgery, or VATS. Similar to the minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery used for procedures in the abdomen, VATS uses small openings to gain access to the chest.

Surgery to remove a section or lobe of the lung is often a necessary and critical part of lung cancer treatment. Conventional or open surgery usually requires a six- to 10-inch incision, cutting the major muscles overlying the chest. The surgeon spreads the ribs apart with a retractor in order to view and gain access to the lung, sometimes even removing a portion of one rib. Following surgery, patients often stay in the hospital for a week followed by several weeks of recovery at home. A significant level of pain is typical with open surgery but can be greatly relieved with medication.

VATS is performed with two to four small incisions (the main incision is only 2 inches long). Instead of spreading the ribs and removing a piece of rib, the surgeon gains access to the lungs through a space between the ribs. By inserting a small camera, the surgeon has a magnified view of the organs on a monitor in the operating room.

"These patients do very well. They typically go home after twp or three days, have less pain and recover much faster," explains Walter J. Scott, MD, FACS - Chief, Thoracic Surgery, a thoracic surgeon at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Scott emphasizes that VATS allows the same comprehensive approach to removing the cancer as open surgery. "Removing all of the cancer is always our main goal, and VATS

Fox Chase is one of only a few institutions in the country offering VATS for some lung cancers. Scott says only about 3 percent of lung cancer surgeries use VATS.

"Minimally invasive surgical techniques have been used for many decades, but only recently have we applied the technology for treating patients with lung cancer," Scott says. "It's a specialized area of medicine so choosing a highly-trained physician is critical.

"Because VATS can allow a quicker recovery, we expect this surgery will translate into better outcomes for patients."

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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