What are lung cancer stages?
You are sure to come across references to lung cancer stages if you
happen to read about this disease. Cancer staging is important because
everything from the kind of treatment chosen, the aggressiveness of the
treatment method, the prognosis for the patient and lots more depend on
the stage of the disease.
The patient's survival chances are enhanced if the cancer is discovered at
earlier stages. This is true of all types of cancer, but is particularly
true of lung cancer because of its tendency to spread really fast to other
critical body organs.
There are four lung cancer stages -- Stage 1 is the earliest and least
life threatening, while Stage 4 represents the most advanced stage of the
disease offering a very poor prognosis (the latter is just a fancy word
meaning the outlook for the patient -- his or her chances of recovery and
ability to lead a normal life.)
Keep in mind that although Stage 1 is the most treatable among the stages
of lung cancer, it is still a very serious disease even at this early
Lung cancers often start off by affecting the lining of the bronchi. Some
cancers also originate in the glands that lie underneath the bronchi
Let's take a look at the four lung cancer stages.
Lung cancer that is confined to the lung tissue and has not spread to
other parts of the body including lymph nodes is classified as Stage 1
lung cancer. As mentioned earlier, this stage offers the best chances of a
full recovery and is the most treatable stage of the disease.
Stage 2 lung cancer refers to a phase where the disease has not spread
beyond the lung tissue and the lymph nodes located inside the lung.
As the disease progresses further, it spreads to lymph nodes outside the
lung as well. So stage 3 lung cancer is said to be present when the
malignancy is confined to three areas -- lung tissue, lymph nodes within
the lung and lymph nodes located outside the lung.
The disease is said to have progressed to
stage 4 lung cancer when it
has spread well beyond the lungs and has affected other organs like the
brain, liver, bones, adrenal glands and other parts of the body.
Treatment for the disease depends on the type of lung cancer -- Small Cell
Lung Cancer (SCLC) versus Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) -- the
overall health of the patient, among other factors.
Here is a look at the different stages of lung cancer and the major
treatment types associated with each. This can and does vary from one
patient to another.
Stage 1 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
The main treatment for this kind of cancer is surgery. It is estimated
that there is a two in three chances of a cure.
Stage 2 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
As with Stage 1 NSCLC above, surgery remains the mainstay of treatment.
The cure rate tends to drop to around 50% now.
Stage 3 NSCLC
A combination of chemotherapy and radiation treatment is often used at
this stage. The cure rate is still around 50% for these cancers.
Stage 4 NSCLC
As with stage 3, a combination of radiation and chemotherapy is used. The
chances of recovery are lowest at this stage.
Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
This is a very aggressive type of cancer. Most doctors use radiation and
chemotherapy to try to arrest the progress of the disease. The cure rate
can vary widely depending on many factors.
With newer drugs and treatment methods under development, it is expected
that the cure rate for all lung cancer stages will go up and patients may
be able to lead a near-normal life.