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Stages of Lung Cancer

written by: Lisa Good • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 1/10/2011

There are different stages of lung cancer. Come learn what each stage means, treatment options and prognosis of each.

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    What Are the Different Stages of Lung Cancer?

    The staging of any tumor is referring to the extent the tumor has spread in the body. Staging of tumors helps oncologists decide the best course of treatment for the patient. It is also used to determine prognosis of the patient with the lower staged tumors having the better prognosis than the higher staged tumors.

    Lung cancer is staged as Stage I- the cancer is confined to the lung, Stage II and III- the cancer is confined to the chest and stage IV- the cancer has traveled outside the chest to other parts of the body.

    lungs 

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    Stage I

    Stage I lung cancer is cancer that is confined to the lung. It is usually less than 5 cm in length. This type of lung cancer is usually detected in the early stages and the treatment is typically resection of the tumor. Since the tumor is localized it can normally be removed quite easily without significant risk to the patient. If during surgery the resection lines are found to be very close to the tumor the physician may also consider adding radiation therapy to the patient's treatment to help prevent further recurrence of the tumor.

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    Stage II

    In stage II lung cancer the tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes or the chest wall, the diaphragm of the lungs, the parietal pericardium or the mediastinal pleura. It is still confined to the chest area. Stage II is further broken down into stage IIA and IIB depending on the size of the tumor and whether it has spread to the lymph nodes or not. Stage II cancer is usually treated by resection if the tumor is located in a place where surgery is possible or chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Sometimes a combination of chemotherapy and radiation is utilized.

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    Stage III

    Stage III lung cancer is the stage that the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes in the mediastinum or the lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest or the lower neck. This stage of lung cancer is not considered curable but is considered treatable. Surgery is usually not an option for these types of tumors. Instead the oncologist will utilize chemotherapy or radiation therapy (or both) to shrink the tumor and help reduce symptoms.

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    Stage IV

    Stage IV lung cancer is the most serious stage. This stage indicates that the cancer has traveled outside the lung/chest area to other parts of the body. The prognosis for this stage is grim, so grim that in some cases patient's opt to not treat the cancer and enjoy the time they have left with family and friends. For those that opt to fight this stage of cancer treatment usually involves a combination treatment of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Treatment goals of this stage of cancer are usually to make the patient more comfortable or to give them more time with their loved ones.

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    Conclusion

    Staging of lung cancer helps oncologist determine how to effectively treat cancer patients and help determine a prognosis. Treatments for lung cancer usually consist of surgical resection, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy and sometimes a combination of all. The best prognosis is for stage I and II lung cancer. Stages III and IV cannot be cured but can sometimes be treated.

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    Sources:

    www.americancancersociety.org

    www.cancercenter.com

    Image Credit: www.publicdomainimages.com

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