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Lung cancer

Lung cancer stages

Making an educated lung cancer 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 a cancer recurrence, we will perform comprehensive testing and identify a treatment approach tailored to your needs.

Staging small cell lung cancer staging

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) makes up less than 20 percent of lung cancers and is typically caused by tobacco smoking. It often starts in the bronchi, then quickly grows and spreads to other parts of the body, including the lymph nodes. Small cell lung cancer stages are classified in two ways:

Limited stage: The cancer is found in one lung, sometimes including nearby lymph nodes.

Extensive stage: Cancer has spread to the other lung, the fluid around the lung (the pleura) or to other organs in the body.

Staging non-small cell lung cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) staging uses the TNM system:

T (tumor): This describes the size of the original tumor.

N (node): This indicates whether cancer is present in the lymph nodes.

M (metastasis): This refers to whether cancer has spread to other parts of the body, usually the liver, bones or brain.

A number (0-4) or the letter X is assigned to each factor. A high number indicates increasing severity. The letter X means the information could not be assessed. For instance, a T1 score indicates a smaller tumor than a T2 score. Once the T, N and M scores have been assigned, an overall stage is assigned.

The stages of NSCLC are:

Occult-stage: Cancer cells are found in sputum, but no tumor can be found in the lung by imaging tests or bronchoscopy, or the tumor is too small to be checked.

Stage 0: Cancer at this stage is also known as carcinoma in situ. The cancer is tiny in size and has not spread into deeper lung tissues or outside the lungs.

Stage I (stage 1 lung cancer): Cancer may be present in the underlying lung tissues, but the lymph nodes remain unaffected.

Stage II (stage 2 lung cancer): The cancer may have spread to nearby lymph nodes or into the chest wall.

Stage III (stage 3 lung cancer): The cancer is continuing to spread from the lungs to the lymph nodes or to nearby structures and organs, such as the heart, trachea and esophagus.

What is stage IV (stage 4) lung cancer)?

Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most advanced form of the disease. In stage IV, the cancer has metastasized, or spread, beyond the lungs into other areas of the body. About 40 percent of NSCLC patients are diagnosed with lung cancer when they are in stage IV. The five-year survival rate for those diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer is less than 10 percent.

Numerous treatment options are available for patients with advanced-stage lung disease at Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA). We also provide therapies to ease the symptoms that can be associated with NSCLC, while improving your quality of life.

M1B stage IV lung cancer means that the cancer has spread to distant lymph nodes or to other organs such as the bones, liver, adrenal gland, kidneys or brain.

Common treatments for stage IV non-small cell lung cancer: In stage IV lung cancer, chemotherapy is often the recommended course of treatment. Immunotherapy may also be recommended as a secondary approach.  

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