What is Lung Cancer Prognosis?
What is lung cancer prognosis and what does it mean? Prognosis is how much time doctors estimate a patient will live after performing diagnostic testing. These tests include biopsies, chest x-rays, CT scans and other methods. The histology of the cancer cells and the test results will determine the prognosis.
Cures and Treatment
Two types of lung cancer predominate. Small-cell (SCLC) and non small-cell (NSCLC). The first is an aggressive form of the disease which metastasizes rapidly, meaning it spreads throughout the body. Early stage SCLC shows few if any symptoms and is usually diagnosed in advanced stages. Doctors classify the disease as limited or extensive, and advanced stages of SCLC have the lowest five year survival rate.
Treatment options for SCLC include surgery, chemotherapy and various types of internal and external radiation therapy. Since only a small percentage of cases are operable, chemotherapy is usually the first line therapy, followed by radiation. Extensive SCLC may have spread to lymph nodes, the brain, the pleural space in the chest or the bones.
Non small-cell presents a brighter prognosis. In about 75 percent of cases, symptoms present early on, giving the patient warning signs to act on. The most common include bloody coughing, constant chest pains, dyspnea (difficulty breathing), swallowing difficulty and developing a hoarse voice. Advanced symptoms include strokes, blurry vision and severe headaches.
Instead of limited or extensive, doctors have a staging system from which a prognosis can be determined. Stages 1a-2b have the highest survival rates. The tumor is either completely contained or is contained on the same chest side it began growing. If lymph node involvement is present, it is minimal. Surgery is a first line therapy followed by chemotherapy courses.
Advanced NSCLC presents as many difficulties as SCLC and has a poorer prognosis. Surgery may not be an option due to the tumor location, and several courses of chemo will be required. In stage 3b and 4, treatment efforts focus on reducing the cancer-associated pain with palliative care.
Radiotherapy is the first choice for this care, and is used to shrink tumors obstructing airways, causing bone pain, or affecting brain function. Radiation is also used in conjunction with chemo as a second line therapy to cure patients.
Researchers believe early detection is the key to a positive prognosis.