Outlining the Stages of Lung Cancer

May 7th 2016

Stage 1

During stage 1, non-small cell lung cancer remains confined to the organ in which it started. Stage I has further divisions of stage IA and stage IB. The tumor remains less than 3 centimeters wide in stage IA. During stage IB, the tumor has grown to between 3 and 5 centimeters or has spread to either of the two bronchial tubes in the lungs. The tumor could be within 2 centimeters of the branch between the bronchi, or some cancer has spread into the thin membranes surrounding the lungs. At stage IB, you may suffer from a collapsed lung or from inflammation. As of 2015, the five-year survival rate of stage 1 lung cancer remains between 60 and 80 percent.

Stage 2

Stage 2 lung cancer remains a localized cancer, although some of the tumor may spread to lymph nodes of the lungs. Approximately 30 percent of patients receive a lung cancer diagnosis during this stage. People who complete treatment at this stage have a 20 to 30 percent survival rate for the next five years. During stage IIA, the tumor may block part of the lung's airways due to collapse or inflammation. In stage IIB, the tumor grows to between 5 and 7 centimeters or reaches the lining of the lungs. If the lymph nodes have not been affected, you could have two separate tumors in the same lobe. The cancer may reach the diaphragm, chest wall or other membranes surrounding the organ.

Stage 3

Several characteristics mark stage 3 lung cancer. One major factor for stage IIIA includes cancer cells in the lymph nodes around the carina, the ridged area that separates the opening of the right and left bronchi from the trachea. Stage IIIB shows cancer in nearby lymph nodes located in the collarbone or on the opposite side where the tumor started. Your doctor may find a tumor in both lobes of the lungs during this stage, or tumors may grow towards the heart, trachea, backbone, esophagus or surrounding blood vessels. The five-year survival rate averages 23 percent in stage IIIA, and 10 percent at stage IIIB. Approximately 30 percent of diagnoses occur during stage 3.

Stage 4

Stage 4 lunch cancer has spread to the second lung, the surrounding fluids of the lung or the fluids of the heart. Cancer now appears in other, more distant parts of the body such as the bones, liver, kidneys or brain. Around 40 percent of lung cancer patients receive a diagnosis at this stage, and the five-year survival rate is less than 10 percent.


Doctors and oncologists outline four basic stages of non-small cell lung cancer to delineate the progression of the disease. The stage of the tumor explains how much the cancer has spread, the size of the tumor, and whether the cancer has moved to other parts of the body. Patients generally have a better prognosis during lower stage numbers of lung cancer. Learn the four stages of lung cancer and what they mean to your overall diagnosis and treatment outcome.

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