Non-small cell lung cancer occult stage
The occult stage is the earliest stage of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) that can be diagnosed. At this stage, the cancer has not spread to other parts of the body. The five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with occult stage non-small cell lung cancer is 60 - 80 percent.
What is occult stage lung cancer?
Patients are diagnosed with occult stage NSCLC when cancer cells are found in the sputum (mucus from the lungs), but tumors are not immediately visible. Patients in the occult stage of lung cancer often do not have symptoms, though a persistent cough could be an indication.
When cancer cells are identified, tumors can be located with imaging tools such as:
- Chest X-Ray
- CT Scan
At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) we use PET/CT (positron emission tomography/computerized tomography), which combines two imaging technologies in one to detect small tumors in the lungs. Combining PET/CT technology reveals where healthy lung tissue ends and the tumor begins. A PET scan also reveals cancerous cells before any structural changes are present. This precisely pinpoints tumors, so that we can properly diagnose and stage the disease, and focus strictly on treating the cancerous tissues.
After the tumor is located (if it can be located), treatment is determined after the tumor is staged, using the TNM staging system.
TNM categories of occult stage
An occult stage non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis occurs in conjunction with the following TNM categories:
- TX: Cancer cells were spotted, but no tumor can be located.
- N0: The cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
- M0: There cancer has not spread to organs or other areas.