5-Year survival rates for lung cancer

lung cancer survival rate
The 5-year survival rate of lung cancer is about 17% overall

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer among both men and women. In general, the 5-year survival rates for lung cancer are:

  • About 17% overall.
  • 54% for cases when the disease is limited to the lungs.
  • 27% if the lung cancer has spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes.
  • 4% if cancer has spread to distant organs, such as the liver.
The 5-year survival rates for lung cancer chart
Lung cancer spread/status Survival rate
Overall 17%
Spread to both lungs 54%
Spread to nearby organs or lymph nodes 27%
Spread to distant organs such as the liver 4%

The 5-year survival rate for lung cancer when the disease is localized to one lung is about 60%. However, getting diagnosed at an early stage is extremely rare. Most lung cancers are diagnosed at a more advanced stage, where the survival rate is about 20%. More than half of lung cancer patients die within one year of being diagnosed because the cancer is aggressive, lethal, and often only detected at the advanced stages.

Chances of survival after lung cancer diagnosis depend on the type of lung cancer, age, staging, and whether there is a history of smoking or other comorbidities (presence of other diseases). Therefore, survival rates are determined on a case-by-case basis.

  • If lung cancer is diagnosed at an early stage, the disease may be curable with surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy.
  • However, if diagnosed at an advanced stage, the disease is typically incurable, and chances of survival decrease if cancer has spread to other organs or lymph nodes. 

What are the survival rates for each stage of lung cancer?

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for 80-90% of the cases. The 5-year survival rates for NSCLC are:

  • Stage I
    • Stage IA: 59-73%
    • Stage IB: 43-58%
  • Stage II 
    • Stage IIA: 36-46%
    • Stage IIB: 25-36%
  • Stage III 
    • Stage IIIA: 19-24%
    • Stage IIIB: 7-9%
  • Stage IV
    • 2-13%
    • Survival rates of stage IV NSCLC are extremely low.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

SCLC makes up about 20% of all lung cancer cases and typically occurs in people who smoke or who used to smoke. The cancer forms in the airway, usually in a central location. SCLC is aggressive, spreading quickly throughout the body using the blood and lymphatic (lymph node) systems. The 5-year survival rates for SCLC are:

  • Stage I
    • Stage IA: 40%
    • Stage IB: 20%
  • Stage II
    • Stage IIA: 40%
    • Stage IIB: 20%
  • Stage III
    • Stage IIIA: 15%
    • Stage IIIB: 10%
  • Stage IV
    • 1%
    • Lung cancer tends to get diagnosed only in the late stages. At stage IV, the cancer has usually already metastasized to a great extent.

In general, people diagnosed with NSCLC tend to have a slightly better outlook than people with SCLC.

Most people who die of lung cancer are middle-aged or older, and the percentage of lung cancer deaths is the highest among people 65-74 years of age. Overall health can also make a difference. For example, staying physically active and avoiding tobacco smoke after lung cancer treatment can lower the risk of cancer recurrence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Though lung cancer remains an extremely deadly type of cancer, there is great hope on the horizon to reduce the fatalities associated with this disease.

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Medically Reviewed on 4/28/2021
WebMD. Your Chances of Surviving Lung Cancer. https://www.webmd.com/lung-cancer/guide/lung-cancer-survival-rates