Objective: Due to recent advances in imaging, the incidence of patients presenting with bilateral lung lesions is increasing. A single contralateral lung lesion can be an isolated metastasis or a synchronous second primary lung cancer. For the revision of the TNM in 2009, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer Staging Committee proposes that patients with contralateral lung nodules remain classified as M1 disease. In this retrospective study, the survival after resection of synchronous bilateral lung cancer is evaluated.
Methods: From our database of bronchial carcinoma, all patients with bilateral synchronous lung lesions between 1990 and 2007 were retrieved. We analysed 57 patients in which, after functional assessment and thorough staging, the decision was taken to treat the disease with bilateral resection. All these files were retrospectively reviewed. Twenty-one patients were excluded from this analysis because only one side was resected (n=15) or one of the lesions was non-neoplastic on final pathology (n=6).
Results: Thirty-six patients underwent bilateral resection for synchronous multiple primary lung cancer. All resections were performed as sequential procedures. In 23 patients, one side was anatomically resected (2 pneumonectomies) and the contralateral side was resected by limited resection. In 10 patients a bilateral lobectomy was performed, and 3 patients had bilateral limited resections. Postoperative mortality was 2.8%. Eighteen patients had a tumour with a different histological pattern, confirmed by comparing both specimens by an experienced senior pathologist. The median survival after resection of synchronous bilateral lung cancer in our series was 25.4 months with a 5-year survival rate of 38%. There was no significant difference in survival between patients with different versus same histology. This survival is much higher compared to the survival of assumed stage IV disease.
Conclusions: Our study shows that selected patients with bilateral lung cancer may benefit from an aggressive approach, with acceptable morbidity and mortality, and rewarding long-term survival. Patients with a single contralateral lung lesion should not be treated as disseminated disease (stage IV). After extensive searching for metastatic spread, bilateral surgical resection should be considered in fit patients.