Stages of Lung Cancer

Staging of Lung Cancer

Staging is different for non-small cell and small-cell lung cancers.

Staging for non-small cell: These cancers are staged differently for extent of disease, and for treatment.
Extent of the disease: Stages 1-4 are given, depending on the size of the tumor, its location and where the cancer might have spread outside the lung. Staging also includes the grade of the cancer (1-3) because grade is a function of how aggressive the tumor cells are and how fast they are likely to spread.

Staging for treatment:

  • Early stage is amenable to surgery with curative intent. You may still need chemotherapy and radiation.
  • Locally advanced is usually treated with chemoradiation, chemotherapy and radiation given together for better effect of each.
  • Metastatic disease is treatable with chemotherapy, targeted or immune therapy and radiation to some areas. If lung cancer has metastasized to the brain, Gamma Knife may be a potential therapy.

Staging for small-cell lung cancer

These cancers are divided into:

  • Limited-stage receives chemotherapy. Radiation may be added because of the potential for cure.
  • Extensive-stage receives chemotherapy.


The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:

  • The stage of the cancer (the size of the tumor and whether it is in the lung only or has spread to other places in the body).
  • The type of lung cancer.
  • Whether the cancer has mutations (changes) in certain genes, such as the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene or the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene.
  • Whether there are signs and symptoms such as coughing or trouble breathing.
  • The patient’s general health.

Finding lung cancer early gives is a better chance of management or recovery. However, it is often in an advanced stage when diagnosed. At later stages, lung cancer can be treated but rarely cured. Clinical trials are a good option for getting the latest treatment.