Contrary to the issues of perioperative morbidity and survival following surgery for lung cancer, little attention has been given to quality-of-life. To address this, quality-of-life was assessed preoperatively and 1, 3, 6 and 9 months postoperatively in a cohort of 117 consecutive subjects who underwent thoracotomy with a certain or presumptive diagnosis of lung cancer. Those with cancer (n = 91) confirmed at thoracotomy were contrasted to those without (n = 26). Moderate to severe dyspnea, reported in 14% preoperatively, increased to 34% at 1 and 3 months (p < 0.005) but returned to approximately 10% at 6 and 9 months. Similarly, activities of daily living were impaired in 11% preoperatively; this disability increased to 21% at 1 month (p < 0.005), and returned to baseline at 6 and 9 months. Those with cancer compared to those without a postoperative diagnosis of cancer had similar quality-of-life preoperatively but deteriorated more in the postoperative period. This study demonstrates that important deterioration in quality-of-life occurs during the first 3 months postoperatively in those with a final diagnosis of cancer but improvement back to baseline can be expected thereafter.