Stages of Lung Cancer: Just How Bad Is My Prognosis?For those with lung cancer, the stage the cancer has reached at the time of diagnosis can make a world of difference. Cancers are divided into different stages depending on how far it has spread from its place of origin in the body. For lung cancer, staging varies according to the type of cancer that was diagnosed.
Non-small cell lung cancer has a staging scale from 0 to IV, and small cell lung cancer has 2 main stages, called limited stage and extensive stage. Typically, cancers diagnosed at an early stage have a better chance of treatment being successful, which goes for all cancers. Determining the stage of lung cancer can be done through a variety of diagnostic tests your doctor can perform.
Non-small cell lung cancer stages
A non-small cell lung cancer diagnosed at stage 0 is the best possible outcome, and is often referred to as carcinoma in situ. This means abnormal cells were found in the lining of the air passages. Over time, these cells have the potential to grow through that lining. If this happens, the cancer may then spread relatively quickly.
According to the National Cancer Institute, stage I non-small cell lung cancer has two sub-stages, IA and IB. A cancer diagnosed in stage IA means a tumor is in the lungs and is less than three centimeters in size. If stage IB is diagnosed, the cancer hasn’t yet breached the lymph nodes. The tumor in this stage may be between three and five centimeters in length. This diagnosis may also mean cancer has spread to the area of the bronchus nearest the trachea or the membrane covering the innermost lining of the lung.
Stage II non-small cell lung cancer is also divided into two sub-stages, IIA and IIB. Stage IIA means the cancer has reached the lymph nodes nearest the lung where the cancer originated. If the cancer hasn’t reached the lymph nodes, stage IIB may still be diagnosed. This would require that either the tumor be between five and seven centimeters long or that the cancer has spread to the bronchus away from the trachea.
For a diagnosis of stage III, sub-stage IIIA has three sub-stages of its own. These classifications depend on a multitude of factors, such as the size of the tumor, which lymph nodes have contracted the cancer, and where the tumor is located. There are two parts to sub-stage IIIB which depend on the same factors as IIIA. However, in stage IIIB, a doctor feels the tumor is beyond the simple means of surgical extraction.
The most serious diagnosis for non-small cell lung cancer is at stage IV. At this stage, the tumor can be any size, and the lymph nodes have most likely contracted the disease. This stage can also mean that a tumor has been discovered in both lungs. If lung cancer has developed far enough to spread to any distant parts of the body, it has reached stage IV.
Advanced stages of lung cancer are less treatable than those discovered early. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with lung cancer and feel it should have been detected sooner by your doctor in Georgia, contact an experienced Atlanta lung cancer lawyer at the Dover Law Firm at 770-518-1133 to schedule a free consultation. Also available to you upon request are many useful resources on cancer and medical malpractice, such as our free book, I Have Cancer…Should It Have Been Caught Earlier? as well as our special report on lung cancer.