Published on July 08, 2019

Treating lung cancer with surgery

A lung cancer diagnosis can be scary and hard to accept. But the disease is often treatable. And for many people, the best chance for successful treatment is surgery.

The lung cancer program at Nazareth provides state-of-the-art lung cancer surgery if you or a loved one should ever need it.

When is surgery a strategy?

Ideal candidates for lung cancer surgery typically have tumors that have been diagnosed at an early stage, says Haji M. Shariff, MD, a thoracic surgeon at Nazareth.

When lung cancer is found early, surgery may even offer a cure. “If you catch it at stage I, the five-year survival for lung cancer is almost 70% to 80%,” Dr. Shariff says.

That’s why Nazareth also offers a lung cancer screening program for certain former or current heavy smokers. It involves a low-dose CT scan to check for lung nodules.

If a lung nodule is found during a scan, the next step is a biopsy to check for cancer. And if the diagnosis is cancer, surgery may be recommended.

Surgery also can be a treatment option for other stages of the disease.

“There are surgical options for all stages of lung cancer, not only just in treatment but also in investigation, diagnosis and palliative procedures,” he says.

Surgical options for lung cancer available at Nazareth include:

  • Wedge resection. Just the tumor and a small, wedge-shaped area of surrounding healthy tissue are removed.
  • Lobectomy. A larger section of the lung, called a lobe, is removed.
  • Pneumonectomy. The entire lung containing the tumor is removed.

The best surgical solution for lung cancer depends on many factors, including the stage of the disease.

Less-invasive approaches

Lung cancer surgery has been around for many decades and has evolved over the years, Dr. Shariff notes.

Today some lung cancer surgeries can be done at Nazareth with small incisions and a video camera. This is known as video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS). The benefits of VATS include less post-surgery pain and a quicker recovery. A typical hospital stay is three to four days versus five to six days for open surgery, Dr. Shariff says.

Meet Haji M. Shariff, MD

Haji ShariffAs a boy in India, Haji M. Shariff, MD, sometimes rode his bike to a local hospital. He told the physicians he wanted to be a doctor and somehow convinced them to let him watch them work.

“When I look back, I’m still surprised that they let me do that,” he says.

Good thing they did. That’s how Dr. Shariff developed his lifelong interest in healthcare.

After graduating from Osmania Medical College in India, he completed residencies at St. Elizabeth Health Center in Ohio and at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

He didn’t stop there. Dr. Shariff earned a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at Hahnemann University Hospital, also in Philadelphia.

Before joining Nazareth Hospital, Dr. Shariff practiced at St. Mary Medical Center for more than 30 years.

When he’s not seeing patients, Dr. Shariff reads a lot of medical literature in order to keep current on the latest studies and surgical techniques.

“Every day is a chance to learn,” Dr. Shariff says.