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What’s the Survival Rate for Each Stage of L...

Updated October 13, 2015.

Lung cancer survival rates are a measure of how many people remain alive with lung cancer after a certain amount of time. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 40% for a condition, would mean that 40% of people, or 40 out of 100 people, would be alive after 5 years. When talking about lung cancer, physicians often use the term median survival as well. Median survival is the amount of time at which 50% of people with a condition will have died, and 50% are still alive.

Lung cancer survival rates are statistics and don’t necessarily give an accurate estimate of how long an individual will survive with a certain disease. There are many factors that affect lung cancer survival rates, including general health, sex, race, and treatments used. Smoking cessation is demonstrated to improve survival in patients with early stage non-small cell lung cancer and in some patients with small cell lung cancer.

The majority of patients with lung cancer have metastatic non-small cell cancers at the time of diagnosis, and there is no data showing that smoking cessation improves survival in this population. Here are some things that affect lung cancer survival.

Not everyone living with lung cancer is interested in hearing statistics about survival rates. Some people want to know what they can expect (statistically that is) with their particular type of lung cancer, whereas others find numbers about survival rates to be discouraging. It is important for loved ones to be sensitive to this, and honor the wishes of their loved one with cancer. That said, even if you aren’t interested in statistics there are things you can do to raise your odds.

Check out this article to see things (other than surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy) that have been found to increase survival in well-researched studies.

Overall Survival Rates by Lung Cancer Type

    Small Cell Lung Cancer – The overall 5-year survival rate for small cell lung cancer (limited and extensive) is only about 6%.
  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer – The overall 5-year survival rate for non-small cell lung cancer (all stages combined) is roughly 18%.
  • BAC (Bronchioloalveolar Carcinoma) – The survival rate with BAC is significantly better than with other forms of non-small cell lung cancer, especially when it is caught early and only one tumor is present. In one study, those who were diagnosed with BAC and had tumors less than 3 centimeters in diameter, had a 5-year survival rate of 100% with surgery. The 5-year survival rate for people with more advanced stages of the disease varies considerably.

Survival Rates by Lung Cancer Stage

As mentioned above, survival rates do not reflect differences in individuals. In addition, keep in mind that not everyone with a particular stage of lung cancer has the same prognosis. Staging lung cancer can help guide treatment, but there is a wide spectrum of cancers within each stage.

  • Stage 1 Non-Small Cell – The overall 5-year survival rate for stage 1A lung cancer is 49% and for 1B is 45%.
  • Stage 2 Non-Small Cell – The overall survival rate with stage 2A lung cancer is 30% and for stage 2B lung cancer, 31%.
  • Stage 3A Non-Small Cell – The overall survival rate for stage 3A lung cancer is 14%, but this varies widely among different cancers that are classified as stage 3A.
  • Stage 3B Non-Small Cell – The 5-year survival rate with stage 3B lung cancer is only 5%. The median survival time with treatment is 13 months.
  • Stage 4 (Metastatic) Non-Small Cell – The overall 5-year survival rate with stage 4 lung cancer is sadly only 1%. The median survival time is about 8 months.
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer – The overall 5-year survival rate for both stages of small cell lung cancer (limited stage plus extensive stage) is only about 6%. Without treatment, the average life expectancy for extensive disease is 2 to 4 months, and with treatment is 6 to 12 months.

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2014. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2014. Cancer Society. Lung Cancer (Non-Small Cell.) Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Survival Rates by Stage. 04/30/2014. http://www.moverfairfaxva.comAmerican Cancer Society. Lung Cancer (Small Cell.) Small Cell Lung Cancer Survival Rates by Stage. Updated 02/11/14. for Disease Control and Prevention. National Program of Cancer Registries. United States Cancer Statistics. 1995-2005 Cancer Incidence and Mortality Data. Accessed 02/16/10. http://www.moverfairfaxva.comEbright, M. et al. Clinical pattern and pathologic stage but not histologic features predict outcome for bronchioloalveolar carcinoma. The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 2002. 74(15):1640-6.Henschke, C. et al. Survival of patients with stage 1 lung cancer detected on CT screening. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2006. 355(17):1763-71.Liu, Y. et al. Prognosis and Recurrent Patterns in Bronchioloalveolar Carcinoma. Chest. 2000. 118:940-947.National Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Stage 0 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 08/06/14. Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Stage 1 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 08/06/14. Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Stage II Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 09/06/14. Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (PDQ). Stage IIIA Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 08/06/14. Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (PDQ). Stage IIIB Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 08/06/14. http://www.moverfairfaxva.comNational Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (PDQ). Stage IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 08/06/14. Cancer Institute. Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Updated 08/06/14., A. et al. Influence of smoking cessation after diagnosis of early-stage lung cancer on prognosis: systematic review of observational studies with meta-analysis. British Medical Journal BMJ2010:340:b5569. Published online 21 January 2010.


Expertise domain: Cancérologie, Traitements

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The Groupe d’étude en oncologie du Québec (GEOQ) and the Comité de l’évolution des pratiques en oncologie (CEPO) of the Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux (INESSS) teamed up to develop an interactive tool that will facilitate the management of lung cancer patients. The tool was developed with the support of the Direction québécoise de cancérologie (DQC) of the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux (MSSS).

This innovative tool, written by Gino Boily, Jim Boulanger, Stéphanie Goulet and Marie-Christine Paquin, includes lung cancer investigation, treatment and follow-up algorithms that reflect both the best available evidence and clinical practice in Québec (expert consensus). Nearly 50 Québec oncology experts specializing in the investigation and treatment of lung cancer took part in a meeting for the purpose of answering more than 140 questions concerning specific topics. A review of the scientific literature was then carried out for each question. The algorithms were written by the CEPO’s methodologists using the answers to the questions and literature data. The document was validated and revised by the Consensus Day Organizing Committee, the group of experts who were present, and the CEPO.

The tool is divided into five parts:

  1. The decision algorithms;
  2. The main recommendations by topic;
  3. A summary of the main evidence and of the points of discussion;
  4. The main chemotherapy protocols used to treat lung cancer;
  5. The references supporting these recommendations.

There are clickable links throughout the document that serve as bridges between all the sections. Therefore, from a given topic in an algorithm, the user can quickly navigate to the recommendations and underlying evidence.

This document is intended as a tool for fostering clinical excellence and efficient resource utilization in the health and social services sector, and for facilitating clinical decision-making across the province.

Breathing new life

In many ways, lungs are a medical mystery. The first signs of breakdown and blood leakage are currently undetectable, so there’s no easy way for doctors to know when a patient’s lungs are beginning to fail. This is also why transplant specialists are unable to tell which lungs will survive, and which ones won’t. So not surprisingly, only 35% of donor lungs are able to be transplanted.

The solution: Uncovering the chemical key

Renowned thoracic transplant physician, Dr Dan Chambers, and Queensland’s chief lung transplant research scientist, Dr Stephanie Yerkovich are leading an exciting research project that hopes to uncover the elusive chemical process which occurs in the body when the lining of the cells starts to breakdown, causing blood leakage into the lungs.

‘If we can identify this biomarker, we can start developing a blood test that will aid in early detection,’ said Dr Yerkovich.

‘This will enable transplant teams to make more informed assessments, not just of donor lungs, but of all donor organs.’

‘And it will help researchers find new ways to treat failing organs.’

This research project could mean a brighter future for so many people. Not just those suffering lung disease, anyone who needs an organ transplant or anyone at risk of organ failure as well.

Lung cancer: what you need to know –

What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is a growth of abnormal cells inside the lung. These cells reproduce at a much faster rate than normal cells. The abnormal cells stick together and form a cluster or growth, known as a tumour. If the abnormal cells began growing in the lung, this is known as a primary lung tumour.

What are the 2 main types of lung cancer?

Cancers that begin in the lungs are divided into 2 main types, non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer, depending on how the cells look under a microscope.

Non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for about 80 per cent of all lung cancers, affects the cells that line the main bronchi (tubes into the lungs) and smaller airways. Non-small cell lung cancer generally spreads to distant organs at a slower rate than small cell lung cancer.

Small cell lung cancer, which tends to start in the middle of the lungs and is very strongly associated with cigarette smoking, accounts for about 20 per cent of all lung cancers.

What causes lung cancer?

Cigarette smoking is the major cause of lung cancer. Up to 90 per cent of cases of the disease are caused by smoking. However, it is not known why one smoker develops lung cancer while another does not. Although unusual under the age of 40, the risk of developing lung cancer increases significantly after the age of 50. The younger a person is when they first commence smoking, the higher the risk of developing lung cancer.

Other causes of lung cancer include environmental (passive) smoking, although the risk is less than active smoking, and occupational exposure to asbestos. The greater the exposure to asbestos at work, the greater the risk of lung cancer. This risk is even greater among smokers. Additional occupational exposures possibly associated with lung cancer include contact with the processing of steel, nickel, chrome, exposure to arsenic and coal gas, and exposure to radiation.

How common is lung cancer in Australia?

  • Lung cancer is the leading cause of death due to cancer in Australia.
  • Lung cancer is the fifth most common cancer in Australia.
  • More than 8,000 Australians are diagnosed with lung cancer each year.
  • More than 7,000 Australians die from lung cancer each year.


  • Lung cancer is the fourth most common cancer affecting men (excluding non-melanocytic skin cancer).
  • In 2005, there were 5,738 new cases diagnosed, and 4,711 deaths.


  • Lung cancer is the fourth most common cancer affecting women (excluding non-melanocytic skin cancer).
  • In 2005, there were 3,444 new cases and 2,716 deaths.

National trends

The incidence and death rates of lung cancer among men is falling along with a declining incidence of smoking among men. Lung cancer incidence and death rates among women have risen, reflecting a growing incidence in the number of women smoking cigarettes in the past few decades.

What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

Lung cancer is very difficult to detect at an early stage, although all tumours are present for some time before they are discovered. Sometimes lung cancer is discovered by chance, such as when a chest X-ray is done before surgery for another condition.

Common symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • a new or changing cough, along with hoarseness or shortness of breath or increased breathlessness during exertion; and
  • recurring episodes of lung infection, fatigue, weight loss and swelling of the face or arms.

If the lung cancer has already spread to other parts of the body, it may cause symptoms such as bone pain and headaches.

How is lung cancer diagnosed?

If lung cancer is suspected, several tests can be performed to determine whether or not the disease is present. The doctor will ask about past and current health, and smoking and work history, and will conduct a physical examination. The doctor may then recommend a series of initial tests for lung cancer, including a chest X-ray, CT scan, and sputum test. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist for a bronchoscopy (a special test that allows your doctor to look inside your lungs and take tissue samples, or biopsies) and further scans. Some of these tests can show whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body.

What are the treatment options for lung cancer?

The type of lung cancer treatment provided depends on many factors, including:

  • the type of cancer;
  • where the cancer first began growing in the body;
  • what the cancer cells look like under a microscope;
  • what stage the cancer is at – whether the cancer cells have spread beyond the primary tumour, and if so how far; and
  • the general health of the person affected.

There are various treatment options for lung cancer, each with different aims.

  • Surgery. This is used to remove all of the cancer in hope of a cure. Depending on the type and stage of the cancer, surgery may be used to remove the tumour and some of the lung tissue around it. If a lobe (section) of the lung is removed, the surgery is called a lobectomy. Removing only part of the lobe is called a wedge resection. If the entire lung is removed, the surgery is called a pneumonectomy. Surgery is rarely useful for small cell lung cancer.
  • Chemotherapy. This is a course of anti-cancer drugs given to destroy cancer cells. They work by disrupting the growth of cancer cells.
  • Radiotherapy. This is a course of high energy rays, such as X-rays, given to kill or shrink the cancer. The radiation may come from outside the body (external radiation) or from radioactive materials placed directly in the tumour (internal or implant radiation). External radiation is most commonly used to treat lung cancer.
  • Laser treatment. This is used to control the cancer cells and unblock airways obstructed by a tumour. While it does not cure the cancer, it provides symptom relief.

What questions should be asked about any proposed treatment?

When treatment is recommended, it is important to know whether the intention of this treatment is to cure or just to relieve symptoms. This decision is based on the cell type, where the cancer cells are located, and whether there has been any spread beyond the lung tissue itself. It is also important to ask about risks or side effects of any proposed treatment so that the correct decisions regarding appropriate treatment can be made.

What is the outcome of a diagnosis of lung cancer?

The outcome depends on the cell type, how far it has spread, and the person’s level of health and suitability for surgery. If small deposits of non-small cell lung cancer are surgically removed prior to spreading, there is a 5-year survival rate of about 80 per cent.

For more advanced non-small cell lung cancer limited to the chest, the 5-year survival rate, even with a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, drops to less than 50 per cent.

The survival rate with widespread non-small cell lung cancer that has spread outside the chest is far less satisfactory. Small cell lung cancer also tends to have a poor outcome. Of people with limited disease, about a quarter can be cured with a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Unfortunately, because most small cell lung cancers have spread by the time they are diagnosed, cure rates are very low.

As many cancers have already spread at the time of diagnosis, only about 15 per cent of all lung cancers are cured. The aim of treatment in incurable lung cancer is to reduce symptoms and maintain quality of life, allowing terminal lung cancer patients to maintain their dignity and be cared for at home or in a hospice.

Essentially, the results of treatment are best when the cancer is detected and treated early. People who have surgery in the early stages of lung cancer have the best chance of cure.


    1. Australian Government – Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Australian cancer statistics update, December 2008 [accessed 2009, Jul 6]. Available at:

    2. Cancer Council Australia. Lung cancer – small cell [updated 2009, Mar 16; accessed 2009, Jul 6]. Available at:

    3. Cancer Council Australia. Lung cancer – non small cell [updated 2009, Mar 16; accessed 2009, Jul 6]. Available at:

    4. Cancer Council NSW. Fact sheet – lung cancer [updated 2005, accessed 2009, Jul 6]. Available from:

lung cancer treatment and survival rate

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Lung Cancer Causes, Symptoms, Treatment – Lu...

Lung Cancer (cont.)

Up to one-fourth of all people with lung cancer may have no symptoms when the cancer is diagnosed. These cancers usually are identified incidentally when a chest X-ray is performed for another reason. The majority of people, however, develop symptoms. The symptoms are due to direct effects of the primary tumor, to effects of metastatic tumors in other parts of the body, or to disturbances of hormones, blood, or other systems caused by the cancer.

Symptoms of primary lung cancers include cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, and shortness of breath.

  • A new cough in a smoker or a former smoker should raise concern for lung cancer.
  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse over time should be evaluated by a health-care provider.
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis) occurs in a significant number of people who have lung cancer. Any amount of coughed-up blood is cause for concern.
  • Chest pain is a symptom in about one-fourth of people with lung cancer. The pain is dull, aching, and persistent.
  • Shortness of breath usually results from a blockage to the flow of air in part of the lung, collection of fluid around the lung (pleural effusion), or the spread of tumor throughout the lungs.
  • Wheezing or hoarseness may signal blockage or inflammation in the lungs that may go along with cancer.
  • Repeated respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, can be a sign of lung cancer.

Symptoms of metastatic lung tumors depend on the location and size. About 30%-40% of people with lung cancer have some symptoms or signs of metastatic disease.

  • Lung cancer most often spreads to the liver, the adrenal glands, the bones, and the brain.
  • Metastatic lung cancer in the liver may cause a loss of appetite, feeling full early on while eating, and otherwise unexplained weight loss.
  • Metastatic lung cancer in the adrenal glands also typically causes no symptoms.
  • Metastasis to the bones is most common with small cell cancers but also occurs with other lung cancer types. Lung cancer that has metastasized to the bone causes bone pain, usually in the backbone (vertebrae), the large bones of the thigh (the femurs), the pelvic bones, and the ribs.
  • Lung cancer that spreads to the brain can cause difficulties with vision, weakness on one side of the body, and/or seizures.

Paraneoplastic syndromes are the remote, indirect effects of cancer not related to direct invasion of an organ by tumor cells. Often they are caused by chemicals released from the cancers. Symptoms include the following:

  • Clubbing of fingers — the depositing of extra tissue under the fingernails
  • New bone formation — along the lower legs or arms
  • Increased risk of blood clots in the arms, legs, or lungs
  • Low sodium levels
  • High calcium levels
  • Low potassium levels
  • Degenerative conditions of the nervous system otherwise unexplained.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/10/2015

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The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Lung Cancer:

Frequently Asked Questions About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the more common cancers diagnosed in the US, and it’s often discovered in a later stage when it’s harder to treat. In 2012, an estimated 226,160 new cases will be diagnosed. About 28% of all cancer deaths in the US are from lung cancer, making it the leading cause of cancer death for men and women.

How much do you know about lung cancer?

Q. What is lung cancer?

A. Lung cancer begins when cells in one or both lungs start to grow out of control. At first, pre-cancerous cells can’t be seen on an x-ray and they don’t cause symptoms. But over time, these cells may progress to true cancer. They may continue to grow and form a tumor large enough to be seen on imaging tests such as x-rays. At some point, cells from the cancer may break away from the original tumor and spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body. Lung cancer is often a life-threatening disease because it tends to spread in this way even before it can be detected on an imaging test.

There are different types of lung cancer. The most common type is non-small cell lung cancer, which accounts for about 85% to 90% of lung cancers. The other main type is small cell lung cancer, which accounts for about 10% to 15%. Other types, such as lung carcinoid tumors account for less than 5% of lung cancers. The different types are treated very differently.

Q. What are the symptoms of lung cancer?

A. Most cases of lung cancer don’t cause any symptoms until they’ve spread too far to be cured, but symptoms do occur in some people with early lung cancer. The most common symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse
  • Chest pain that is often worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored spit or phlegm
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back
  • New onset of wheezing

Most of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by conditions other than lung cancer. Still, if you have any of these problems, it’s important to see your doctor right away.

Q. How many people get lung cancer?

A. An estimated 226,160 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in 2012 and an estimated 160,340 people will die from lung cancer, making it the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

Q. Do nonsmokers get lung cancer?

A. Tobacco accounts for about 80% of lung cancer deaths. But even though it’s less common, some people who don’t smoke get lung cancer, too. Every year, 16,000 to 24,000 Americans die of lung cancer even though they have never smoked. If lung cancer in nonsmokers had its own category separate from lung cancer in smokers, it would rank among the top 10 fatal cancers in the United States.

Q. Are there screening tests that can find lung cancer early?

A. The idea of screening for lung cancer is appealing, because it has the potential of finding the cancer earlier, when it’s easier to treat. But screening carries risks that may outweigh the benefits for everyone except those at higher than average risk for lung cancer, often heavy smokers.

A type of CT scan known as low-dose spiral CT (or helical CT) has shown some promise in detecting early lung cancers in heavy smokers and former smokers. But a drawback of the scan is that it finds a lot of abnormalities that turn out not to be cancer but that still need to be assessed to be sure. This may lead to additional scans or even more-invasive tests such as needle biopsies or even surgery to remove a portion of lung in some people. A small number of people who do not have cancer or have very early stage cancer have died from these tests. There is also a risk that comes with increased exposure to radiation.

These factors, and others, need to be taken into account by people and their doctors who are considering whether or not screening with spiral CT scans is right for them. The American Cancer Society has interim guidance on lung cancer screening.

Q. What causes lung cancer?

A. Smoking is by far the leading risk factor for lung cancer. About 80% of lung cancer deaths are thought to result from smoking. The longer you smoke and the more packs a day you smoke, the greater your risk.

If you stop smoking before cancer develops, your damaged lung tissue gradually starts to repair itself. No matter what your age or how long you’ve smoked, quitting may lower your risk of lung cancer and help you live longer.

If you don’t smoke, breathing in the smoke of others can increase your risk of developing lung cancer. Secondhand smoke is thought to cause more than 3,000 deaths from lung cancer each year. Other risk factors include exposure to radon gas or asbestos, and a family history of lung cancer.

Q. Can lung cancer be cured?

A. Despite the very serious outlook (prognosis) of lung cancer, some people are cured. More than 350,000 people alive today have been diagnosed with lung cancer at some point.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff

ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please contact

Lung Cancer-Medications

Medicines for lung cancer mainly involve chemotherapy. Other medicines may be used to help with pain.


Chemotherapy is the most effective treatment for small cell lung cancer. It can help control the growth and spread of the cancer, but it cures lung cancer in only a small number of people. It also may be used to treat more advanced stages of non-small cell lung cancer.

Chemotherapy is called a systemic treatment because the medicines enter your bloodstream, travel through your body, and kill cancer cells both inside and outside the lung area. Some chemotherapy drugs are taken by mouth (orally), while others are injected into a vein (intravenous, or IV).

Some of the more common chemotherapy medicines used for lung cancer include the following:

Most chemotherapy causes some side effects. Your doctor may prescribe medicines to control nausea or vomiting.

You may be concerned about losing your hair from cancer treatment. Not all chemotherapy medicines cause hair loss, and some people have only mild thinning that is noticeable only to them. Talk to your doctor about whether hair loss is an expected side effect of the medicines you will receive.

Chemotherapy may be combined with surgery. It may be given before or after surgery to kill cancer cells.

Medicines for pain

Pain is one of the main concerns of people who have cancer. But cancer pain can almost always be controlled with medicines and other options. Medicines used for cancer pain include prescribed medicines, such as hydrocodone or morphine, or nonprescription medicines, such as aspirin and similar drugs.