Treatment of a lung cancer patient depends on the stage of cancer diagnosed. Accordingly, the appropriate medication or chemotherapy is prescribed. This article provides comprehensive information on the different stages of lung cancer.
Lung cancer is considered to be responsible for more number of deaths than any other form of cancer; smoking being one of the prime reasons. There are four different stages of lung cancer depending on the spread of tumors inside the body. Like in the case of every other form of cancer, various tests and scans have to be performed in order to detect the stage of illness. It helps the doctor in forecasting and deciding the appropriate method of treatment for the patient. Staging involves the evaluation of the spread of cancer within the lungs and presence or absence of metastases in the lymph nodes or other organs. All the four stages provide information about the size of the tumor and tell whether the cancer is only in the lymph nodes or has spread beyond it.
➜ Lung cancer is a result of excessive growth of cells in the lung tissues and is responsible for 1.3 million deaths in the world annually. These uncontrolled cells get accumulated forming a tumor that is very different from the neighboring cells within the periphery.
➜ These tumors can be fatal as they take oxygen and nutrients from the healthy cells. In the U.S., lung cancer has already surpassed the number of deaths caused due to breast and prostate cancer taken together.
➜ The major causes of lung cancer are smoking, radon gas, and prolonged contact with asbestos. Its prominent symptoms are coughing up blood; shortness of breath; pain in the chest, back, or arms; and repeated episodes of pneumonia or bronchitis.
➜ Cancer in the right lung is slightly more common than in the left. There are basically two forms of lung cancer:
Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
This is the less common form and spreads throughout the body at an alarming rate. The prime reason for its occurrence is smoking.
Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
This is the more common form amongst lung cancer patients and includes several subtypes of tumors, namely: squamous cell lung carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell lung carcinoma.
To determine the stage of lung cancer in a patient accurately, X-rays, CT scans, lab tests, MRI scans, and bone scans are done by doctors. Positive lab tests are due to the presence of metastases in the bone or liver. Also, with the help of radiological procedures, the size of a cancer and possible spread to other organs can be known. Following are the 4 different stages:
In the first stage, the cancer is localized and does not affect the lymph nodes. This is the stage in which the patient can be easily cured with the help of a surgery, but sadly only 15% of the patients are diagnosed earlier. Out here, the cancer invades the underlying lung tissue, and depending upon the size of the tumor, it can be further subclassified as:
► Stage IA
The tumor is small in this stage (usually 3 cm or less).
► Stage IB
The tumor is larger when compared to stage IA and sometimes may lead to the partial collapse of the affected lung.
In the second stage, the cancer has spread to the neighboring lymph nodes or further invades the chest wall. In some cases, it also spreads to the lining of the lungs, diaphragm, or the outer lining that surrounds the heart. Depending on the tumor’s size and spread, stage II can be classified further into two substages:
► Stage IIA
In this case, although the cancer is small, it has spread to the lymph nodes near the affected lung.
► Stage IIB
The tumor size is larger and the cancer may or may not have reached the lymph nodes. If the lymph nodes are not affected, the cancer grows inside the chest wall, esophagus, or outer lining of the heart.
In stage III, the cancer spreads in the lymph nodes covering the area of the chest between the heart and lungs, sometimes affecting the blood vessels as well. It can also be divided into two substages:
► Stage IIIA
The cancer spreads to the lymph nodes on the same side of the chest where it initially started. It may also have spread to the chest wall, pleura, or middle of the chest.
► Stage IIIB
The cancer in this stage spreads to the nodes on the other side of the chest, and the tumor could have grown in the heart, windpipe, or esophagus. In case of non-small cell lung cancer, pleural effusion (a condition in which excess fluids build around the lungs) is checked through scans. If the cancer cells are found in the fluid, it is considered to be at stage IIIB. This stage is usually treated with the help of chemotherapy only or chemotherapy and radiation.
Stage IV means the cancer has spread beyond the lungs to the other parts of the body. Surgery cannot be considered as a potential treatment in this case, and the patient is left with the option of chemotherapy and radiation only. The survival rate for stage IV lung cancer is less than 10% and the median survival time being 8 months. Apart from the normal symptoms, difficulty in swallowing, headaches, and vision changes are some other problems faced by the patients in the fourth stage.
Survival reports differ by significant percentage as shown by reports. According to the two different reports by Wu and Naruke, the 5-year cumulative survival rate was 68.5 to 88.0% for patients in stage IA, 46.9 to 53.9% in stage IB, 33.5 to 46.9% in stage II, 14.7 to 26.1% in stage IIIA, 5.5 to 9.0% in stage IIIB, and 7.0 to 11.2% in stage IV, in the year 1999. The following statistics imply that the mortality rate goes high as the patient advances through the 4 different stages of lung cancer. So, it is always advisable to not neglect the common symptoms and consult a doctor before the stage of lung cancer advances. So, the next time you light up your cigarette, read this article before doing so. Take care!
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.