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
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
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
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