There have been no major breakthroughs in surgical management for primary lung cancer during the past 40 years. Improved 5-year survival relates primarily to improved preoperative staging and appropriate selection of patients for resection. Perioperative morbidity and mortality, however, has been significantly reduced. Certain principles pertain to current surgical management: resection remains the best treatment for patients with localized, non-small cell primary lung cancer. Accurate preoperative diagnosis and staging: whenever possible, it is desirable to establish the diagnosis and cell type before operation. Accurate evaluation of the N status warrants wide application of invasive staging with mediastinoscopy or a variant. Indications for resection: only patients in whom a complete resection is anticipated should be selected for surgery. Such cases included T1 to T4 stages, N0 and N1 tumors, and selected N2 cases. The indication for resection in patients with hematogenous metastases are anecdotal. Intraoperative staging: accurate and deliberate intraoperative staging with evaluation of nodes using the American Thoracic Society map is highly desirable. The nature of nodal metastases exerts a critical influence on prognosis and in the selection of patients for surgical resection. At present, there is no clear indication for adjuvant therapy in surgically resected cases other than for evaluation and clinical trials.