lung cancer stage 4 - what you need to know
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Lung cancer stage 4 -- what it means to you

Lung cancer stage 4 is undoubtedly a very advanced stage of this aggressive disease. It offers a very poor prognosis for the patient -- the chances of surviving past the five year mark for all lung cancer stages is just 15%; the survival rates at stage 4 are considerably lower than that.

How is lung cancer stage 4 defined? Basically, a patient is said to have this final-stage disease if the cancer has spread beyond the lungs and has affected other body organs like the liver, brain, bones, etc. The cancer is now no longer localized and is said to have metastasized or spread beyond its point of origin.

Only non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) are classified into four stages. Small cell lung cancers (SCLCs) are grouped into just two stages:

1. Limited stage SCLC, where the cancer is confined to the lung / chest area.
2. Extended stage SCLC, where the cancer has spread beyond the chest / lungs into other parts of the body.

To get a better understanding of lung cancer stage 4, it is useful to look at the other NSCLC stages as well. Stage 1 lung cancer is the earliest stage of the disease. Here, the cancer has affected only the lung tissue. As you can imagine, this is the stage at which the cancer is easiest to treat.

Still, even at this early stage, there is only a 49% survival rate at the five year mark, which highlights the dangerous nature of this disease. To make matters worse, it is estimated that only 16% of lung cancers are detected at this early stage, in the United States. This means that most cases are detected at later stages including stage 4.

In contrast to stage 1, stage 2 lung cancer has affected both the lung tissues and the lymph nodes within the lungs. The cure rate is usually below 50% for this stage of NSCLC.

Stage 3 lung cancer is that which has affected the lung tissues, the lymph nodes inside the lung as well as lymph nodes outside the lung. The cancer is still confined to the chest area and has not spread beyond that.

This is in contrast to lung cancer stage 4, which has spread well beyond the chest area. Affected parts of the body may include the liver, brain, bone, adrenal glands and other critical organs.

Staging of lung cancer is important because it determines the kind of treatment the patient receives. Of course, the treatment recommended also depends on other factors like the patient's overall health. Lung cancer stage 4 is usually treated using a combination of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Related articles:
Lung cancer prognosis...what are the chances of surviving the disease?
The three types of lung cancer surgery
What is stage 3 lung cancer and how is it treated?

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