After your lung cancer is diagnosed, your doctors will determine the type of lung cancer you have and the stage of the disease. Staging is based on the tumor’s size and whether it has spread to any lymph nodes in the area or to other organs.
A tumor up to 5 cm wide that has not spread to any lymph nodes or other organs is classified as stage I. These tumors are usually resectable (able to be removed surgically). High-dose radiation therapy may also be used for these tumors.
A tumor 3 cm or smaller
A tumor 3-5 cm wide in any direction
Stage II cancers may be a little larger than stage I, and/or may have spread to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest (hilar lymph nodes), and/or may have begun to invade other structures within the chest. These tumors are usually resectable.
A tumor 5-7 cm wide in any direction with no spread to lymph nodes OR
Less than 5 cm, but spread to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest
A tumor 7 cm or wider in any direction with no spread to lymph nodes OR
5-7 cm wide, but spread to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest OR
Beginning to invade structures within the chest OR
More than one tumor in the same lobe of the lung
A tumor that has spread to the center of the chest (mediastinum) on the same side as the tumor OR has spread to lymph nodes beyond the same side of the chest, but does not appear to have spread to other organs outside the chest is classified as stage III. Often, stage III tumors are unresectable (unable to be removed surgically). Patients with stage III disease are assessed individually for resection, which may be performed after chemotherapy and/or radiation.
Tumor spread to lymph nodes in the center of the chest (mediastinal lymph nodes)
Tumor spread to lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest OR
Involves major structures, such as the heart or arteries
Cancer accompanied by pleural effusion (a fluid build-up between the lungs and the chest wall that has cancer cells) or that has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body is classified as stage IV. Although stage IV cancers are generally not curable, there are treatments available that may help you live longer and with an improved quality of life
Limited-stage SCLC is cancer present in only one lung, which may have spread to surrounding lymph nodes. Treatment for limited-stage SCLC generally involves both chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Extensive-stage SCLC is cancer that has spread to both lungs, lymph nodes far from the original cancer, or other parts of the body. As with other advanced cancers, extensive-stage SCLC is generally not curable, but there are treatments available that may help you live better and longer.
Your doctors will determine the stage of your cancer by using any combination of several procedures:
This information is not designed to be a substitute for medical advice provided by your treatment team.
Last updated 7/2015
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