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What is Early Stage Lung Cancer?


Updated September 30, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.


Many people talk about "early stage lung cancer," which may be confusing if your doctor has described the stage of your cancer with a number, such as stage 2. How do you know if your lung cancer is classified as early stage?

Part of the confusion is because early stage lung cancer is defined in different ways. Most of the time when a doctor talks about early stage lung cancer, she is referring to non-small cell lung cancers that are stage 1, stage 2, or stage 3A or limited stage small cell lung cancers. When lung cancer is defined in this way, it is often referring to cancers that are caught early enough that they have the potential to be cured with surgery.

In some studies, the definition is more limited, referring to people with stage 1A lung cancer alone, or even only those people with stage 0 lung cancer (carcinoma in situ).

If you are wondering whether or not something you hear about “early stage lung cancer” applies to your particular situation, share your questions with your oncologist.

Further Reading - Stages In-Depth:


National Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Health Professional Version. Updated 08/13/10. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/non-small-cell-lung/HealthProfessional/page1

Robert read an article that talked about early stage lung cancer, but didn't know if his stage 2 non-small cell lung cancer was considered early stage.

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