lung cancer prognosis and what it means to you
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Lung cancer prognosis...what are the chances of surviving the disease?

The term prognosis refers to forecasting the likely course or progression of a disease and the probable outcome. It also includes estimating the chances of recovery from the disease. And that is what lung cancer prognosis is all about.

Lung cancer prognosis depends on several factors. These factors include the specific type of lung cancer, the degree of metastasis (the extent to which the cancer has spread to other parts of the body), the patient's overall health and response to medication, etc.

The size of the tumor and the extent to which the cancer has spread within the lung (the disease stage) are important prognostic factors in non-small cell lung cancer. If the patient exhibits pulmonary symptoms, it leads to a worse prognosis as compared to that for someone who does not exhibit such symptoms.

If the cancer has spread to several lymph nodes, the lung cancer prognosis is significantly worse than if that were not the case. In the case of non-small cell lung cancer, weight loss of more than 10% is also considered a bad sign.

Oncologists (cancer specialists) attempt to quantify a patient's well-being using a measure called performance status. A poor performance status indicates a poor prognosis. Doctors consider the performance status when deciding whether the patient should receive chemotherapy and other forms of treatment. This measure is also used to decide upon the degree of palliative care needed.

The Karnofsky scoring system, a commonly used performance status system, uses a score that runs from 0 to 100, with 100 indicating perfect health and 0 indicating death.

Prognosis for patients with small cell lung cancer depends on the performance status, the extent to which the liver and the central nervous system have been affected when the cancer is diagnosed. The prognosis also depends on the gender of the person and the stage of the disease, among other factors.

The National Cancer Institute reports that the median age for lung cancer detection is 70 years and the median age for death because of this disease is 71 years.

While lung cancer prognosis for all disease types is generally poor, there are some differences.

Among patients with small cell lung carcinoma, the survival rate at the end of five years is just 5% (overall figure). Among those who have extensive-stage small cell lung cancer, the survival rate at the five year mark is 1%. Those with limited-stage SCLC do better - they have a five year survival rate of 20%. Their median survival time for such patient is 20 months.

The figures are different for those with non-small cell lung carcinoma, though they are not very encouraging. The survival rate depends on the disease stage. Among patients with stage 1A disease who have undergone comprehensive surgical resection, the survival rate at the five year point is approximately 67%. In the case of patients with stage 1B disease however, the survival rate at five years deteriorates to 57%. Patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer - where the disease is at stage IV - the five year survival rate is estimated to be 1%.

In summary, lung cancer prognosis is usually quite poor. Survival rate depend to some extent on the stage at which disease is detected. The earlier the detection, the greater the chances of survival beyond the five year mark. That is why it is important to be aware of common lung cancer symptoms - if any of the symptoms are present, it requires immediate medical attention.


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