Tips for Patients

Tips for Patients

Tips to help patients with lung cancer and their family members to manage the treatment process

Post-Surgery Care

Discharged from the hospital after lung cancer surgery, patients may experience pains, shortness of breath, and bruising, itchiness, soreness or numbness at the incision sites.A healthy lifestyle should be maintained for a speedy recovery. Patients should avoid smoking, alcohol, chemical fumes, environmental pollution and exposure to upper respiratory infections, such as colds and flu.6 


- Incision careSurgery incisions should be kept clean and dry.  Patients may use warm water and mild soap to gently clean incision sites.Pat them dry with a soft towel. Do not apply lotion, powder, or ointments until the scabs have fallen off (approximately 3-4 weeks).Immediately seek medical assistance if patients suspect an infected incision. Signs of an infected incision include:7

  • Increased drainage, swelling or oozing from incision
  • Opening of the incision line
  • Redness and/or warmth around the incision
  • Fever

- Pain managementTake pain medications as instructed by the doctor if needed. Don't wait until the pain gets bad before taking them.It is very important to call the doctor if pain or discomfort gets worse, or there are signs of complications.


- Physical activityAfter surgery, patients should take things slowly and take as much rest as needed. For 6 to 8 weeks after surgery, avoid any activity that might put stress on the healing incisions, such as heavy-lifting or yardwork.Instead patients should slowly increase physical activity to avoid over exertion. For example, it is recommended to start walking to improve circulation, lung capacity, and strength.5 


- Breathing exerciseAfter lung surgery, patients may notice shortness of breath with activity. It is recommended that patients practice deep breathing to help strengthen pulmonary muscles and expand the breathing capacity of the lungs.Patients may ask their doctor to demonstrate proper deep breathing exercises. In addition, a small device known as incentive spirometer can be used to exercise lungs and measure inspiratory volume.Consult a doctor if patients experience any of the below:6

  • Trouble breathing
  • Pain with breathing
  • Chest pains
  • Coughs
  • Green, yellow, or blood-tinted phlegm
  • Fever






5. USC. Recovering at Home after a Thoracotomy. Available at: Accessed: 7 Feb 2017.

6. JHM. Lobectomy. Available at: Accessed: 6 May 2019.

7. USC. Taking Care of Your Incisions After Lung Surgery. Available at: Accessed: 7 Feb 2017.

8. USC. After Lung Surgery: Breathing and Coughing Exercises. Available at: Accessed: 7 Feb 2017.