When a person is diagnosed with lung cancer, the doctor needs to evaluate the cancer to determine how serious it is and whether the cancer has spread to other regions, the size of the tumor, the growth speed, the presence of lymph nodes, the possible treatment and the prognosis. Lung cancer is divided into 4 stages with stage 1 being the earliest and stage 4 being the last, while some of these are also divided into sub stages. Each stage has different cancer aspects such as the type of the lung cancer, the size of tumor, and the areas the cancer has affected. The determination is done by several methods, including X-rays, bone scans, MRI scans, CT scans and certain examinations.
The earliest development of lung cancer is identified as stage 1, which very often shows no symptoms. Thanks to the advanced medical diagnostic technology today, tumors can be found using CT scans as one of regular chest radiograph methods. Cancer found in this stage results in a higher survival rate of patients, with about 75 percent of the patients surviving more than five years. Thus, it is recommended that people, especially smokers, do regular radiograph check ups so if cancer or a tumor in the lung exists, it can be found earlier, possibly still in stage 1 and can result in a better prognosis. Next is stage 2, which has a lower five-year survival rate than the first one, normally about 50 to 60 percent. The cancer in this stage may already affect other areas such as nerves. Thankfully, in this point, the cancer has not spread to critical organs. Here there are two sub stages, which are 2A and 2B. In 2A, the tumor size is less than 3 cm and has affected at most the lymph nodes. In 2B, the size of the tumor is more than 3 cm and it has affected the lymph nodes or areas around the bronchus or the lining of the lung. Similar with stage 2, stage 3 is also divided into 3A and 3B. 3A is when the tumor has affected the lymph nodes that are located on the same side as the tumor. In 3B, the tumor has spread to the opposite lung and lymph nodes in the neck. By this point, the cancer is generally incurable although it is treatable with lower survival rate from the previous stages. The five-year survival rate is usually about 30 percent.
Stage 4 is the final classification, which is also known as Metastatic, is when the cancer cannot be operated on and can only be treated with methods such as chemotherapy and radiation. The survival rate by this point is lower than the previous stages. Generally, a patient can survive for up to 7 to 12 months with the five-year survival rate below 20 percent. By understanding the lung cancer stages, patients should be prepared to understand the diagnosis and prognosis of their cancer.