One of the most common topics related to mesothelioma cancer or lung cancer is about whether you need both of your lungs. “Can you live with one lung?” is often asked by patients and caregivers to medical experts and online sources.
The answer is “yes.” However, some people are better equipped than others to live with one lung.
People with mesothelioma and lung cancer often wonder this because living with one lung might be their best path to getting rid of their cancer. These two cancers form on or near the lungs, and one lung is usually overrun with tumors quickly. Taking out the lung can remove tumors along with the organ and help the patient beat the cancer.
What Is a Pneumonectomy?
Pneumonectomy is a surgery to remove one of your lungs. The surgery takes out the entire lung. Some lung cancer surgeries remove just part of the lung. This surgery is a major part of lung cancer treatment.
Pneumonectomy is a surgery option for both lung cancer and mesothelioma. It’s suggested by doctors when the tumors have overrun tissue on the lungs. If the cancer is in stage 2 or 3, then pneumonectomy might be the only option to get rid of the cancer.
Patients must be healthy enough to live after a pneumonectomy, though. Living with just one lung can be challenging. It requires more work from the remaining lung to keep the respiratory system functioning at a high level.
Mesothelioma lung-removal surgery is called an extrapleural pneumonectomy. In addition to removing the lung, doctors remove the thin lining around the lung cavity. This small lining of tissue and fluid is called the pleura. It’s where pleural mesothelioma forms.
After getting your lung removed, you’ll likely need physical therapy. This usually occurs in the hospital or an outpatient facility in the days, weeks and months after pneumonectomy surgery.
Physical therapy for living with one lung includes breathing exercises and physical activity, such as walking regularly. This builds endurance, strengthens breathing, and gets rid of fluid that builds up after surgery in the extra space in your lung cavity.
Your Lifestyle With One Lung
You’ll likely be able to live your life mostly the same way. The main impact of having just one lung is exercise and physical activities.
Lungs are part of your respiratory system. The purpose of the respiratory system is to move fresh air into your body while removing waste, such as carbon dioxide. The lungs deliver life-sustaining oxygen into your blood. This is important to keeping your blood healthy as it supports other organs.
One lung can provide adequate oxygen to your blood while removing enough waste to keep you healthy. However, your remaining lung is working extra. This means you’ll probably be out of breath much faster than before. You’re also more prone to fatigue throughout the day.
The other major effect of having one lung occurs if you get a respiratory illness. COVID-19, for instance, attacks the lungs. If it causes significant distress to your only remaining lung, you may experience severe symptoms. Another example is pneumonia, which is lung inflammation due to a virus. You’re more likely to have a longer fight with the virus and experience tougher symptoms.
In summary, yes, you can live with one lung. If you have lung cancer or mesothelioma, this might be one of the few options to beat your cancer and live comfortably and happily. Talk with your doctors about having a pneumonectomy and ways to prepare your body. Then prepare for some small lifestyle changes and hopefully many cancer-free years with family and friends.
Sources & Author
- Pneumonectomy. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Retrieved from: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/treatment-tests-and-therapies/pneumonectomy. Accessed: 05/29/2022.
Sources & Author