Thoractomy and Rib Removal

My husband was diagonosed Sept. 12, 2010 with Stage IIIA NSCLC. He had a 8.3 centimeter tumor in the top of his right lung that penetrated to his rib cage. He started chemo and radiation right away and it was successful enough to shrink the tumor enough to be surgically resected. His surgery was Dec 14, 2010 and he spent 8 days in the hospital. He lost 2/3 of the top lobe of his right lung and had Ribs #2, #3, #4 removed. The ribs were taken all the way to his spine so therefore he is not a candiate for the nerve blocks that the pain managment doctor wanted to do. My question is, How long will it take before he can do anything with out pain. He is on a lot of pain meds but they are monitored very well. When he left the hospital, the surgeon talked like he would need pain meds for about 8 weeks, but after that, he should be fine. Well that hasn't happened. He still has a lot of burning under his right arm and pain in his shoulder and breast bone. All his scans have been good, but he feels like he will never be able to work again. Has it been enough time?, Should we expect another 6 months of healing? His inscision starts under his right shoulder blade and goes all the way around his chest under his right arm. He trys to stay as active as possible but sometimes he just sits and and says it hurts like crazy. He gets down and depressed about it. Just any advice from anyone. As long as he knows that this is normal ( the docs say it is), then he can deal with it. But again, just wondering how long.

Report post

8 replies. Join the discussion

I know his pain. i am very active but some days i feel like crying from the tightness and pain and it has been 3 years! I only take 1mg of ativan at night and that helps relax the tightness a bit. For me staying active and walking a lot helps. unfortunatley i work at a desk all day and by the time i leave i feel paralyzed on my right side. I never had physcial therapy but you r husband may want to try it. massage helps too but honestly i have not had 100% success with anything. it will get better for him and it sure is normal for many peple who have had thoractomies.

Report post

I would ask his surgeon to recommend or refer you to a PT that would specialize in his type of condition. There is alot of adjusting going on in there as well as the loss of the ribs. Has it improved at all? Wishing him the best. Take care, Judy

Report post

Yikes!!!! What covers up his organs on that side of his body since the protective ribs are gone. I had the ribs broken in order to get thru for the thoracotomy and it took me several years to stop having rib cage cramps when I turned my torso. But,,,,,without any ribs I cannot imagine how he lives with that. Blessings on him! cynthia from MO.

Report post

Hello everyone, thank your for your responses. He has had one round of Physical Therapy and will soon start another round. We have to wait until the insurance cycles a year so we can do it again. As far as protection for the loss of his ribs, the only thing he has is his right back shoulder blade that will protect him a little in the back and as far as the front, I have no idea. We have seen x-rays and cat scans and of course both of us can't make heads or tails of them. We printed a picture of a chest anatomy and will take that to the doctor in hopes he can give us a mental picture. He strictly sees his oncologist now and not even his surgeon anymore. It's kinda like, they are done with you and then that's it. It frustrates him too, like they don't even care anymore, but I understand because he is nervous and worries about it and is trying to find his way to move forward. He has improved alot in the past 9 months but they are saying that it could take another year to year and 1/2 to be able to use that arm (right arm) to the fullest. I was just wondering if anyone else had gone through losing ribs too and they could give us a little encouragement. But, i do thank all of your for your thoughts and blessings!! We are blessed that is for sure. God has taken good care of us.

Report post

Good morning all
I was diagnosed 3 years ago with stage 4, in the upper right lobeof my lung and some lymph nodes, i went threw the cemo and radiation and it almost killed me a few times, which i am sure everyone who has had cemo and radiation knows the feeling, I got no results from that treatment , no shrinkage , the doc told me all he could do was make me comfortable, so i found my own sergunt who would take it out , he had to take some partial ribs out get to it and bones in my shoulder, and i am sorry to say that was nov. 09 and i am still in a great deal of pain, but I guess the better thing is I do not have cancer anywhere, i am about to try some expermental stuff for the pain if it works i will let everyone know. good luck all

Report post

I am diagnosed with stage 3b NSCLC and was told I'm inoperable due to lymph node spread/involvement. The tumor size is 3.2 cm in upper right lobe. I am not inclined to do chemo and was wondering if you would share the surgeon's name you used or the hospital where the procedure was done. Thanks in advance.

Report post

I am in MO too. My surgery removed the Left upper lobe and 3 to 4 inches of ribs one and two on 1/6/11. They used a mesh to recreate a chest wall. I have never had any real pain. The local doctors said I was inoperable but I found a surgeon at Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. Let me know if you want more information.
I did do radiation and chemo before the surgery.

Report post

Hi, I have a surgeon who has said they will do the surgery, I have a baseball tumor and noduales thru the right lung, chemo didnt work, and now trying another one, surgery is dec 8....any way did they ever tell u why the chemo didnt work on u?

Report post

This discussion is closed to replies. We close all discussions after 90 days.

If there's something you'd like to discuss, click below to start a new discussion.

Photo of Dave Grant

The Lung Cancer Survivors Support Community has provided support for patients, caregivers, families and friends since 2006. We welcome over 600 new members every month in the fight against lung cancer.

ALK mutations and lung cancer

Join the discussion about ALK mutations and lung cancer

Things you can do

Discussion topics

Community leaders