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Lung cancer stages

Making an educated treatment decision begins with the stage, or progression, of the disease. Using the results from your diagnostic tests, your care team at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) will develop an appropriate treatment plan for you.

If you have been recently diagnosed, we will review your pathology to confirm you have received the correct diagnosis and staging information, and develop a personalized treatment plan for you. If you have had a cancer recurrence, we will perform comprehensive testing and identify a treatment approach tailored to your needs.

Stage 1 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

In stage I non-small cell lung cancer  (NSCLC), cancer may be found in the underlying lung tissues, but not the lymph nodes.  Stage I is divided into two sub-stages, 1A and 1B, based on the size of the tumor. Each diagnosis depends on the size and location of the tumor. The five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with stage I lung cancer is about 60-80 percent. Factors like response to treatment, health at the time of the diagnosis and quitting smoking may improve your survival rate if you are diagnosed with stage I lung cancer.

Similar to stage 0 lung cancer, stage I often does not present symptoms, and so the discovery of the cancer can occur when evaluating other symptoms or health issues. Since the cancer has not spread, other symptoms such as weight loss, pain and fatigue are not likely to occur.

Stage IA lung cancer

For patients diagnosed with stage IA non-small cell lung cancer, the cancerous tumor is 3 cm across or smaller, and it has not extended into the membranes surrounding the lungs. Stage IA lung cancer does not affect the main area of the bronchi, and has not spread to lymph nodes or other organs.

TNM categories of stage IA

A stage IA lung cancer diagnosis occurs in conjunction with the following TNM categories:

  • T1A/T1B: If the tumor is 2 cm or less across it is T1A, if it is larger than 2 cm but smaller than 3 cm, it is characterized as T1B.
  • N0: The cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
  • M0: The cancer has not spread to distant organs or other areas.

Common treatments for Stage IA non-small cell lung cancer: Treatment options typically include removing one lung lobe via lobectomy, or a smaller piece of the lung with a segmentectomy. At least some lymph nodes within the lung and outside the lung may also be removed and tested for evidence of cancer cells.  We also provide therapies to ease the symptoms that can be associated with NSCLC, while improving your quality of life.

Stage IB lung cancer

In patients with stage IB lung cancer, the primary tumor is larger than 3 cm, but smaller than 5 cm. In addition, the tumor has one of the following features, and is not larger than 5 cm.

  • The tumor has spread into the main bronchus, but is not within 2 cm of the carina, the cartilaginous ridged area that separates the opening of the right and left main bronchi stems.
  • The tumor has spread into the thin, serous membranes surrounding the lungs, also known as the visceral pleura.
  • The lung has partially collapsed, or developed an inflammation in the carina.

TNM categories of stage IB

  • T2A: If the tumor is larger than 3 cm but smaller than 5 cm, it is classified as T2A. If the tumor is larger than 5 cm across but smaller than 7 cm, it is considered T2B.
  • N0: The cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
  • M0: The cancer has not spread to distant organs or other areas.

Common treatments for Stage IB non-small cell lung cancer: Treatment at this stage typically includes surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. After surgery, lung tissue is biopsied and checked for the presence of cancer cells at the edges. If none is found, the margin is described as negative or clean, suggesting that the cancer had been removed. The margin is described as positive when cancer cells are found at the edge of the tissue, suggesting some cancer had not been removed. In order to destroy those cells, chemotherapy may be recommended. Another option may be to use radiation therapy after surgery.

We also provide therapies to ease the symptoms that can be associated with NSCLC, while improving your quality of life. 


How is lung cancer staged?

daniel nader

Staging is very important because the stage of the lung cancer dictates treatment. Dr. Nader describes how lung cancer is staged by using intrabronchial ultrasound and navigational bronchoscopy, followed by a non-surgical needle biopsy.

What is the difference between small and non-small lung cancer?

Dr. Weiss explains the difference between the two most common types of lung cancer, small-cell and non-small cell.

They are diagnosed by pathologists who examine tissue under a microscope to look for certain types of proteins in order to determine the cancer type.

Recent advancements in lung cancer treatment

In this explanation of innovative therapies, Dr. Nader talks about several treatment options, including intratumoral chemotherapy, brachytherapy, genomics and stereotactic radiation therapy.

The video also covers advancements in chemotherapy made possible by genomic tumor assessment and precision medicine.

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