What is Inoperable Lung Cancer

Whenever a patient is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer or any other metastasized cancer, they give up their chances of surviving.
Although inoperable means incurable, it is never the same for cancer.
Inoperable cancer means a tumour that cannot be removed surgically but can still be treated either with chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Just as brain tumours deep inside the skull may cause greater harm to a patient when an oncologist is trying to remove them, so do liquid cancers.
The more you try to remove it surgically, the greater the harm you cause to the patient.

What makes cancer inoperable?

There are certain factors that make cancer inoperable, they include

1. The type of cancer. Some cancers are naturally inoperable because of their nature. Such cancers include all liquid cancers like leukaemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma.

2. stage of the tumour. The stage of cancer also matters. If cancer is diagnosed early when it has not spread to other organs, the treatment will be easier.

3. The position of cancer. Positions also matter. Cancer deep inside the spinal cord or skull may be hard to remove through surgery.

Causes of inoperable lung cancer

Just like other cancers, inoperable and operable cancers are the same and are caused by carcinogens.

A carcinogen is any substance that can cause cancer.

Cancer-causing agents can be grouped into four factors,

  • Genetic factors
  • Environmental
  • Lifestyle
  • Age (1).

Genetic factors as a cancer-causing agent

In every cell, the DNA controls all the activities within, both sending, receiving, and storage of signals.

Those sets of instructions follow a sequential pattern as directed by the DNA.

Cancer is formed when there is a sudden change (mutation) to the  DNA working principle.

Environmental factors

Your environment can either increase or decrease your chances of getting cancer.

If your environment contains carcinogens, your risk may be higher.

Those who work in companies or areas where they are exposed to toxic materials also have a greater chance of getting cancer.

 Your lifestyle

Certain lifestyles can increase our risk of cancer, for example, too much intake of alcohol, smoking, excessive exposure to sunlight, and obesity.
We should minimize these risky lifestyles, to lower our cancer risk.

Old age

Cancer may take time to develop, which is why most victims are adults close to 70 years old. Although it is not made for adults, it is more common with them.

Types of inoperable lung cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer,

  • Small cell lung cancer (SCLC): This lung cancer affects about 10-15% of all cancer patients, it spreads faster than (NSCLC), making surgical treatment almost impossible. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are often used to treat lung cancer.
  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): This lung cancer affects about 80-85% of all cancer patients, and can be removed with operation if diagnosed early.

Stages of inoperable lung cancer

After a patient is diagnosed with lung cancer, your doctor tries to find out if cancer has spread and if so, how far.

The process is called cancer staging.

The staging process is commonly used in non-small cell lung cancer.

Stages of non-small cell lung cancer

  • Stage 1. When the cancer is in the lungs alone.
  • Stage 2. When the cancer is in the lungs and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3. The tumour is found in the lungs and lymph nodes at the centre of the heart.
  • Stage 4. The tumour has spread to both the lungs and other organs.

The life expectancy of a cancer patient

The life expectancy of a patient with inoperable cancer depends mainly on the stage of cancer.

If the cancer is diagnosed earlier, the survival rate will be high.

Treatments for inoperable cancers

While surgery may not be possible because the cancer has spread, or its location, doctors still have other options to treat you. They include


This is the use of cancer-killing drugs to treat inoperable cancer. The drug is usually injected into the blood vessel, to travel around the lungs.


This is the use of electromagnetic rays to destroy all inoperable-cancer cells.

Bottom line

Inoperable cancer is not incurable, it is treatable. With early diagnosis and proper management, it will be healed just like other sicknesses.