Background: The long-term survival after operation of patients with lung cancer involving the chest wall is known to be related to regional nodal involvement and completeness of resection, but it is not known whether the depth of chest wall involvement or the type of resection (extrapleural or en bloc) affects either the rate of local recurrence or survival.
Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center experience between 1974 and 1993 of 334 patients undergoing surgical exploration for lung cancer involving the chest wall or parietal pleura.
Results: Of 334 patients who underwent exploration, 175 had apparently complete (R0) resections, 94 had incomplete (R1 or R2) resections, and 65 underwent exploration without resection. The overall 5-year survival of R0 patients was 32%, of R1 or R2 patients 4%, and of patients undergoing exploration without resection 0%. In the patients undergoing R0 resections, the extent of chest wall involvement was limited to the parietal pleura in 80 patients, and extended into the ribs or soft tissues in 95. The 5-year survival of R0 patients with T3 N0 M0 disease was 49%, T3 N1 M0 disease 27%, and T3 N2 M0 disease 15% (p < 0.0003). Independent of lymph node involvement, a survival advantage was observed in R0 patients if the chest wall involvement was limited to parietal pleura only, rather than invading into the chest wall musculature or ribs.
Conclusions: Survival of patients with lung cancer invading the chest wall after resection with curative intent is highly dependent on the extent of nodal involvement and the completeness of resection, and much less so on the depth of chest wall invasion.