Lung Cancer

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD
    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD

    Jay W. Marks, MD, is a board-certified internist and gastroenterologist. He graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and trained in internal medicine and gastroenterology at UCLA/Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.

Quick GuideLung Cancer Symptoms, Stages, Treatment

Lung Cancer Symptoms, Stages, Treatment

How do health-care professionals determine lung cancer staging?

The stage of a cancer is a measure of the extent to which a cancer has spread in the body. Staging involves evaluation of a cancer's size and its penetration into surrounding tissue as well as the presence or absence of metastases in the lymph nodes or other organs. Staging is important for determining how a particular cancer should be treated, since lung-cancer therapies are geared toward specific stages. Staging of a cancer also is critical in estimating the prognosis of a given patient, with higher-stage cancers generally having a worse prognosis than lower-stage cancers.

Doctors may use several tests to accurately stage a lung cancer, including laboratory (blood chemistry) tests, X-rays, CT scans, bone scans, MRI scans, and PET scans. Abnormal blood chemistry tests may signal the presence of metastases in bone or liver, and radiological procedures can document the size of a cancer as well as its spread.

NSCLC are assigned a stage from I to IV in order of severity:

  • In stage I, the cancer is confined to the lung.
  • In stages II and III, the cancer is confined to the chest (with larger and more invasive tumors classified as stage III).
  • Stage IV cancer has spread from the chest to other parts of the body.

Most doctors use a two-tiered system to determine treatment for SCLC:

  • Limited-stage (LS) SCLC refers to cancer that is confined to its area of origin in the chest.
  • In extensive-stage (ES) SCLC, the cancer has spread beyond the chest to other parts of the body.
Reviewed on 12/2/2016
References
REFERENCES:

American Cancer Society. "Lung Cancer." <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/lungcancer/>.

American Lung Association. "Lung Cancer Fact Sheet." Nov. 3, 2016. <http://www.lung.org/lung-health-and-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/lung-cancer/learn-about-lung-cancer/lung-cancer-fact-sheet.html>.

United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Lung Cancer." Oct. 25, 2016. <http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/lung/>.

United States. National Cancer Institute. "Lung Cancer." <http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/lung>.

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