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Lung Cancer Info

Staging

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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.

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Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
How will doctors find out the stage of my lung cancer?

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)


Stage I

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).

Stage IANSCLC Staging
A tumor 3 cm or smaller

Stage IB
A tumor 3-5 cm wide in any direction

Stage II

These tumors are a little larger than stage I, may have spread to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest, and/or may have begun to invade other structures within the chest. These tumors are usually resectable.

Stage IIA
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

Stage IIB
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

Stage III

A tumor that 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).

Stage IIIA
Tumor spread to lymph nodes in the center of the chest

Stage IIIB
Tumor spread to lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest OR
Involves major structures, such as the heart or arteries

Stage IV

Cancer accompanied by pleural effusion (a fluid build-up between the lungs and the chest wall) or that has metastasized (spread) to other parts of the body is classified as stage IV. Although stage IV cancers are difficult to cure, there are treatments available that may help you live longer and better.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)SCLC Staging

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 to other parts of the body. As with other advanced cancers, extensive-stage SCLC can be difficult to cure, but there are treatments available that may help you live better and longer.

How will doctors find out the stage of my lung cancer?

Your doctors will determine the stage of your cancer by using any combination of several procedures:

  • Computed tomography (CT) scans are sophisticated x-rays that show the body in cross-sections. These cross-sections are very good at showing the location and size of tumors
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans can help determine where tumors are in the body. Because cancer cells grow faster than normal cells, they consume more sugar. When a small amount of special dye that contains sugar is injected into a vein, a PET machine is used to see where the sugar builds up.
  • Bronchoscopy is a procedure in which a doctor puts a camera down the airway to look for tumors and possibly perform a biopsy (removal of a sample of the tumor or lymph nodes) using a needle.
  • Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) is a newer, more specialized type of bronchoscopy that uses sound waves to create an image of the tumor and nearby tissues to help the doctor decide what area to biopsy.
  • Navigational bronchoscopy uses CT scans, computer software, and special very small devices to guide the bronchoscopy procedure. This form of bronchoscopy may be used when a tumor exists in the smallest parts of the airways, or to help doctors better find the right spot to take a standard biopsy.
  • Bone scans create pictures of the bones. A special dye is injected into a vein, and a camera is used to see the dye. This tells doctors how healthy the bones are and whether they have any tumors in them.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses magnetic fields to produce detailed images of the body. MRI is particularly useful for finding abnormal growths in the brain.

This information is not designed to be a substitute for medical advice provided by your treatment team.
Last updated 2/2014

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