30% of resectable lung cancers can be operated on using video-assisted thoracoscopy
- The technique allows complementary chemotherapy treatment to be started five days after surgery. Until now, patients had to wait a month before starting treatment.
- In Spain, there are only three hospital units of this kind. In Europe, only 10% of thoracic surgeons practice the technique.
In Spain, lung cancer affects about 19,000 new patients a year and is the main cause of death by cancer in both men and women. For that reason MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid has set up the Video-Assisted Minimally Invasive Thoracoscopy Unit in Thoracic Oncology to treat up to 30% of patients with resectable lung cancer with this technique, allowing complex intrathoracic surgery to be carried out simply and with fewer complications than with the conventional thoracotomy.
Video-assisted thoracoscopy (VAT) is an evolution of traditional surgery using small incisions to insert a video scope, with which to see the inside of the chest cavity on a monitor, and the surgical instruments required depending on the complexity of the procedure. One of the main advantages is that, in patients requiring chemotherapy, this can be started just a few days after the operation, instead of having to wait several weeks to start treatment, as with conventional surgery. Furthermore, the patient may be released 48 hours after surgery and, according to specialists, 72 hours after surgery recovery is almost complete, so the patient can return to his/her social-working life sooner.
What is more, video-assisted thoracoscopy also reduces post-operative pain in the chest wall, improves early mobilization and minimizes damage to the immune function and the need for post-operative pain relief. The technique also reduces the incidence of complications and gives a better esthetic result.
In spite of all the benefits, there are currently very few centers in Europe practicing the technique regularly on lung cancer – mainly due its complexity. Actually, in Europe, only 10% of thoracic surgeons are familiar with the approach, and in Spain, there are only three hospital units of this kind.