Video-assisted Surgery Beats Lung Cancer

Just a few months ago, it looked as if Dee Demers might never enjoy her regular walks again. The 63-year-old was already contending with bone marrow cancer. Then, after chemo treatment in January, a blood clot in her lung and pneumonia hospitalized her for a month. A scan of her lung revealed that she also had lung cancer.

"I was not sure that I would recover from my hospitalization, let alone be able to have surgery for lung cancer," Dee recalls.

Because Dee's lung cancer was contained within a single lobe, she was considered a good candidate for video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma. One reason Dee could undergo this operation was that lung surgery has become so much less traumatic in recent years.

With video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), the surgeon inserts a tiny camera between the ribs to reveal the surgical field. The doctor then operates through incisions less than a half-inch long, using instruments similar to chopsticks. VATS reduces hospital recuperation time to a day or two, and lets patients resume most normal activities within a couple of weeks.

Dee was one of the first patients at St. Joseph Medical Center to benefit from robotic VATS surgery. Just five weeks after the cancerous lobe was removed, Dee resumed walking her dog. "I'm back up to my usual three or four miles a day," she says. "There's no time to waste, as long as I feel good."

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Dee Demers
Dee Demers