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Hi everyone-

I'm a 57 year-old breast cancer survivor (in treatment for almost all of 2019 and part of 2020) and I was just diagnosed with early-stage lung adenocarcinoma, unrelated to my breast cancer. The nodule was discovered last year as part of post-treatment testing after my chemo and double mastectomy were complete. My doctors followed the nodule until October when I had a biopsy performed. The nodule hadn't changed at all, but given my cancer history, my gender, and my never-smoker status, I was considered high risk for this type of cancer. The biopsy ended up discovering "atypical" cells and they recommended surgery. They also sampled nearby lymph nodes that were negative. I'm very thankful for that. I'm a never-smoker and can't really believe I'm getting a second cancer diagnosis, but I'm also thankful it was found so early. So far (fingers crossed) my breast cancer does not seem to have spread. I had a really great response to herceptin and other targeted therapies.

My surgery is scheduled for 1/6/22 and I'm not going to lie - I am really dreading it. I got pneumomediastinum after my biopsy which was SO miserable. And having had a double mastectomy, I'm pretty fearful of the post-op pain. It's funny how there's so much focus on the emotional aspects of breast cancer (true - it's no fun). But wow - the pain. I was very unprepared for that. Plus I needed physical therapy afterwards and it was just one long, painful recovery. Not easy. 😕

I've been told I'll be getting either laparoscopic surgery or possibly robotic surgery. So my surgeon has said that he hopes the pain won't be as bad as it was for my mastectomy. (Not nearly as big incisions.) But I would love to hear what your experiences have been with surgery post-op. I'd also like to know if there are things I should be asking my doctors about. I am planning to ask about getting a genetic profile of the tumor itself. But I don't really know what else to ask for. I will be getting the upper segment of my upper left lobe removed. 

Thanks in advance for any advice you can provide. I was very thankful for my fellow breast cancer forum members and I am especially thankful that I found all of you. Thank you!!

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Hi Betsy and welcome here. I'm a survivor of 3 different primary cancers. First I had breast cancer, Stage 1a, estrogen and progesterone receptor postiive, HER2 negative.  I had a lumpectomy and radiation, nothing as painful or difficult as you went through with your breast cancer, Then I had a rare and aggressive form of cervical/endometrial cancer, Stage 3, grade 3. I had a radical hysterectomy, concurrent chemo and radiation and additional  chemo. That surgical recovery was painful and I had a lot of side effects of treatment, some of which were long term or permanent.

Compared to that surgery, my laparoscopic lower right lobectomy, with removal of 27 mediastinal lymph nodes, was a piece of cake! Well, maybe not a piece of cake really, but fairly easy. I was released from the hospital the following day with a chest tube in place because I had an air leak. Both the quick discharge and the discharge with the chest tube are pretty unusual. It's more typical for people to be in the hospital for two or three days. When air leaks occur,  patients are most often kept in the hospital a few extra days until it resolves. I was glad to recover at home, though. I was out and walking around the neighborhood in a few days, with my drain tube and bag hidden under a big raincoat. I did have some pain from the drain tube, which  caused stabbing sensations when I moved in certain ways. I fairly quickly learned not to move in those ways!   I had oxycodone, which made the pain tolerable. Once the tube was out (10 days in my case) I had very little pain, which was controlled with OTC meds, 

My experience of having pain from a chest drain tube and little pain after it was removed is fairly typical for those having laparoscopic or robotic lobectomy. Thoracotomy (open surgery) is less often used and is more painful with a longer recovery.

Unless your situation is really unusual, your pain and recovery time will be nothing like what you had with your double mastectomy.

I''ve written a lot here, so I'm going to leave it to other forum members to respond to your other questions. Keep posting with any additional questions you may have and let us know how we can support you. That's what we're here for.

Bridget O

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I'm another survivor of more than one cancer.  In 2010 I was diagnosed with colon cancer and after a resection was considered cancer-free.  Then in 2019 a nodule was discovered in my right lung and had to have a lobectomy to removed it.  From then until now all of my scans have been NED (No Evidence of Disease).  So there is hope for you as well.  I wrote a post on some "Thoracic Surgery Tips and Tricks" and it can be found here.  It can help you to get through some of the foibles of lung surgery.  Stay strong and know there is hope for you.


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LouT and BridgetO - You guys are the best! Thank you so much for your replies! It is so helpful to know that you've been through this and it was do-able. It's also so reassuring to hear that you've both had other cancers. The fact that you've come through so much gives me a lot of hope. Thank you!!

Also - LouT - your surgery tips are awesome. I am going to print them out. I especially appreciated the tip on the wedge pillow. Sleep is everything when it comes to healing, and I never would have thought of that. When I had my mastectomy, I rented a recliner for a month - needed to be sleeping in something that would prevent me from rolling over in my sleep (I'm a stomach sleeper). The wedge sounds much easier to arrange and I'll definitely try it. 

Big thanks to you both! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thanks, Karen. I asked about this at my pre-surgical appointment yesterday, and I was told my oncologist would have to order the genomic testing in order to get the best chance for insurance to cover it. I appreciate the encouragement to stay on top of it. With so much going on in my head over this, it would be easy to get passive about it and that's not usually a good idea! 

Thanks again for your support!

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