Learning About Lung Cancer | Lung Cancer Stages
A lung cancer diagnosis brings with it at least two more important pieces of information: the type of lung cancer and the different lung cancer stages.
There are two main types of lung cancer: Small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer then breaks down into four categories: squamous cell (epidermoid) carcinoma, large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma, adenocarcinoma and bronchioalveolar carcinoma.
Both the type of lung cancer and the stage that it’s in will help determine what kind of treatment the patient will receive. The lower the stage, the less advanced the cancer. That being said, the stage of the lung cancer is not the same as a prognosis.
Non-small cell lung cancer stages are designated I through IV, with I as the earliest. The stages break down this way:
• Stage 1 Lung Cancer: The cancer has not spread. It is located in one lung.
• Stage 2 Lung Cancer: The lymph nodes in the lung are involved. The tumor has spread to them.
• Stage 3a Lung Cancer: In this case, the tumor has spread beyond the lung to other lymph nodes in the chest wall and diaphragm. The spread is on the side where the cancer began.
• Stage 3b Lung Cancer: This indicates that the cancer has spread beyond the side where the cancer started and is affecting lymph nodes in the other lung or the neck.
• Stage 4 Lung Cancer: Other areas of the lungs or other organs are involved.
In small cell lung cancer, tumors grow quite rapidly, and can grow to considerable size.
The progress of the disease falls into just two categories: “limited stage” or “extensive stage.” In the limited stage, the lung cancer is located in one lung, close lymph nodes. In extensive stage cancer, the tumor has spread to other parts of the body.
The different lung cancer stages also emphasize just how important early lung cancer detection is – According to this article, if found in early stages, the lung cancer survival rates dramatically increase.
- Survival Rate by Stage of Cancer at Diagnosis
- Stage I – 50%
- Stage II – 30%
- Stage III – 15%
- Stage IV- Less than 2%
Unfortunately, most lung cancers are diagnosed symptomatically, meaning when symptoms have already started to occur. When found symptomatically the cancer tends to be in a later stage. Symptoms of later-stage lung cancer include:
- New, persistent cough
- Changes in a chronic cough
- Coughing up blood-streaked sputum
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
It’s important to repeat that the lung cancer stage is not the same as a prognosis. The stage is used as a guide to treatment options. Knowing the stage of the lung cancer helps the oncologist determine the best course of treatment.
As with other types of cancer, early detection is critical in the case of lung cancer. According to NCI data, if lung cancer is detected in Stage I or II the 5-year survival rate more than triples from 15% to 53%; conversely later stage diagnosis results in only a 4% survival rate. People at higher risk for the disease need to consult with a physician about early detection options. New methods for detecting lung cancer at its earliest stages have arrived on the scene and have potential promise.