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Lung Cancer

Stages of Lung Cancer

Chart showing stages of lung cancer

Lung cancer staging is an integral part of knowing what your treatment options are. Typically, cancers that are at an earlier stage are easier to treat but many people can still live a long time with advanced-stage disease. But what are the stages of lung cancer?

TNM Classification

Three factors are used to determine lung cancer stage (sometimes referred to as the TNM classification system). The stage of lung cancer is determined by a combination of all these factors.

T – Tumor size and location

N – Regional lymph node involvement. Lymph nodes are small ball-shaped immune system organs distributed throughout the body. It is vital to know whether the lung cancer has spread to the lymph nodes around the lungs.

– Metastasis status. Metastasis status refers to which organs cancer has spread.

Non-small Cell Lung Cancer Stages

Lung cancer can be described in stages depending on how early or advanced the cancer is: early stage (stages 0 and II), locally advanced (stage III), and metastatic lung cancer (stage IV)

  • STAGE 0 (carcinoma/tumor in-situ) – on-small cell lung cancer is an early stage of lung cancer that is only in the top lining of the lung or bronchus and has not spread.
  • STAGE I– The tumor is 4cm or less across, affects the main branches of the bronchi, and has not spread beyond the lungs.
  • STAGE II– The tumor is 7cm or less across and has spread to nearby lymph nodes. Alternatively, there may be more than one separate tumor nodule present.
  • STAGE III– The tumor can be any size and has spread to the lymph nodes. It may also have spread to surrounding areas. Two or more tumors may be present in different lobes of the same lung.
  • STAGE IV (metastatic lung cancer)– The tumor in the lung can be any size and has spread to the fluid around the lungs, the lymph nodes and other distant organs.

Small Cell Lung Cancer Stages

Small cell lung cancer is divided into two stages for the purposes of treatment:

  • Limited stage: The cancer is in only 1 side of the chest (possibly including lymph nodes) and can be treated with a single radiation field.
  • Extensive stage: It is somewhat similar to NSCLC Stage IV, the cancer has spread widely throughout the lung, to the other lung, to lymph nodes on the other side of the chest, or to distant organs.

The staging system used for non–small cell lung cancer is increasingly being used for small cell lung cancer.

Knowing the stage of the disease helps doctors plan the most appropriate Lung Cancer treatment for the patient.

This article is informative only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.