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Center for Thoracic Oncology


Surgical Resection

The Center for Thoracic Oncology at Boston Medical Center is dedicated to serving you and your family by providing you with the most advanced and effective medical treatment in New England with unmatched patient care. Our staff of compassionate diagnosticians, surgeons, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and surgical nurses work as a team to treat you and lead you on the path to recovery in the most comfortable way possible.


Surgical resection uses surgery to remove abnormal tissue, such as mediastinal, neurogenic, or germ cell tumors, or thymoma. Surgery may provide a cure in some cancer cases, when the tumor is discovered early. Your physician will recommend one of the following types of resection, depending on your diagnosis. If you have cancer, the type of resection will be based on the tumor location, size, and type, as well as your overall health prior to diagnosis.

  • Sternotomy. The surgeon makes an incision in the center of your chest and separates the sternum (breastbone). The surgeon then locates and removes the tumor.
  • Thoracotomy. Thoracotomy involves the surgeon making an incision in your side, back, or in some cases between your ribs, to gain access to the desired area.
  • VATS, or video-assisted thorascopic surgery. This is a minimally invasive alternative to open chest surgery that involves less pain and recovery time. After receiving the general anesthesia, the physician will make short incisions in your chest and then insert a fiber-optic camera called a thorascope as well as surgical instruments. As the physician moves the thorascope around, images that provide important information are projected on a video monitor. The tumor can thus be located and removed.
  • Robot-assisted tumor resection. Your surgeon uses a computer-controlled device that moves, positions, and manipulates surgical tools based on his or her movements. He or she sits at the computer console with a monitor and the camera provides a three-dimensional view of your chest that is magnified 10 times greater than a person's normal vision. The surgeon's hands control the robotic arms to perform the procedure.

How to Prepare

It is important to follow any instructions given to you by your physician, to prepare for surgery. These instructions generally include:

  • Refraining from eating or drinking anything after midnight on the night before
  • Bringing all of your medications with you to the hospital
  • Arriving one hour prior to your surgery time

You may have a pre-admission appointment one to two weeks beforehand, in which you will have routine blood testing, any heart imaging, such as an electrocardiogram, and consultation with the anesthesiologist, who will administer medicine during your procedure that puts you to sleep and eases pain.

If possible, do some mild physical activity such as walking, and eat a balanced diet, leading up to your scheduled surgery. In the week before, try to follow the guidelines below:

  • Limit alcohol consumption to one to two glasses per day.
  • Stop using tobacco.
  • Make a list of all medications you take and bring it with you. Include prescription and over-the-counter medications, herbs, supplements, aspirin, and corticosteroids.

What to Expect

On the day before your procedure, you should receive a call from us. You will be given information about the day of your procedure, including where to go and when to arrive. Leave any jewelry, credit cards, or other valuables at home, and wear comfortable clothes.

When you arrive, you will be taken to a pre-surgery area so that we can take your temperature, blood pressure, pulse, and listen to your heart and lungs. We will place an intravenous (IV) line in your arm, so that medications and fluids may be administered before, during, and after the procedure.

Your surgery may take several hours. Your family may wait in the Family Waiting Room, located on the 2nd floor, room 2501 in the Newton Pavilion. The cafeteria is also located on the 2nd floor, and the gift shop is in the main lobby.


After surgery, you will be taken to the Post Anesthesia Unit and monitored for any changes in blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. An IV line will remain in your arm to keep you hydrated and administer pain medication, if necessary. If a breathing tube was inserted during surgery to control your breathing, it may remain in place for a brief time. You will likely have one or two tubes placed during surgery to drain fluids for several days.

Before you go home, your physician or nurse will teach you how to care for your incision. Gradually, over the course of a few weeks, you will regain your strength and be able to return to work and participate in physical activity. Be sure to call your doctor if you notice any of the following:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • High temperature
  • Allergic reaction, such as redness, swelling, trouble breathing
  • Pain

Always take your medicine exactly as prescribed. Call us if you have any questions or changes.

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Fax: 617.638.7382

Boston Medical Center
Center for Thoracic Oncology
Moakley Building
830 Harrison Avenue, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02118

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Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

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88 East Newton Street,
Robinson B-402
Boston, MA 02118
Call: 617.638.5600
Fax: 617.638.7382

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