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Lung Cancer Survival Rates by Type and Stage

What Are the Survival Rates for Different Stages of Lung Cancer?

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Updated July 11, 2014

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

Lung cancer survival rates are a measure of how many people remain alive with lung cancer after a certain amount of time. For example, a 5-year survival rate of 40% for a condition, would mean that 40% of people, or 40 out of 100 people, would be alive after 5 years. When talking about lung cancer, physicians often use the term median survival as well. Median survival is the amount of time at which 50% of people with a condition will have died, and 50% are still alive.

Lung cancer survival rates are statistics and don't necessarily give an accurate estimate of how long an individual will survive with a certain disease. There are many factors that affect lung cancer survival rates, including general health, sex, race, treatments used, and in the case of people who smoke, if they are able to quit.

Factors Thay May Affect Survival Rates

Not everyone living with lung cancer is interested in hearing statistics about survival rates. Some people want to know what they can expect (statistically that is) with their particular type of lung cancer, whereas others find numbers about survival rates to be discouraging. It is important for loved ones to be sensitive to this, and honor the wishes of their loved one with cancer. That said, even if you aren't interested in statistics there are things you can do to raise your odds. Check out this article to see things (other than surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy) that have been found to increase survival in well-researched studies.

Ways to Improve Lung Cancer Survival That Even Your Doctor May Not Know

Overall Survival Rates by Lung Cancer Type

  • Small Cell Lung Cancer - The overall 5-year survival rate for small cell lung cancer (limited and extensive) is only about 6%.

  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer - The overall 5-year survival rate for non-small cell lung cancer (all stages combined) is roughly 15%.

  • BAC (Bronchioloalveolar Carcinoma) - The survival rate with BAC is significantly better than with other forms of non-small cell lung cancer, especially when it is caught early and only one tumor is present. In one study, those who were diagnosed with BAC and had tumors less than 3 centimeters in diameter, had a 5-year survival rate of 100% with surgery. The 5-year survival rate for stage 3 and 4 disease is roughly 60%.

Survival Rates by Lung Cancer Stage

As mentioned above, survival rates do not reflect differences in individuals. In addition, keep in mind that not everyone with a particular stage of lung cancer has the same prognosis. Staging lung cancer can help guide treatment, but there is a wide spectrum of cancers within each stage.
  • Stage 1 Non-Small Cell - The overall 5-year survival rate for stage 1 lung cancer is 60-80%.

  • Stage 2 Non-Small Cell - The overall survival rate with stage 2 lung cancer is 40-50%.

  • Stage 3A Non-Small Cell - The overall survival rate for stage 3A lung cancer is 23%, but this varies widely among different cancers that are classified as stage 3A.

  • Stage 3B Non-Small Cell - The 5-year survival rate with stage 3B lung cancer is only 10%. The median survival time with treatment is 13 months.

  • Stage 4 (Metastatic) Non-Small Cell - The overall 5-year survival rate with stage 4 lung cancer is sadly less than 10%. The median survival time is about 8 months.

  • Small Cell Lung Cancer - Limited Stage - The overall 5-year survival rate for both stages of small cell lung cancer combined is only about 6%. In Small Cell Lung Cancer - Extensive Stage - The overall 5-year survival rate for both stages of small cell lung cancer combined is about 6%. Without treatment, the average life expectancy for extensive disease is 2 to 4 months, and with treatment is 6 to 12 months.

Sources:

Center for Disease Control and Prevention. National Program of Cancer Registries. United States Cancer Statistics. 1995-2005 Cancer Incidence and Mortality Data. Accessed 02/16/10. http://apps.nccd.cdc.gov/uscs/

Ebright, M. et al. Clinical pattern and pathologic stage but not histologic features predict outcome for bronchioloalveolar carcinoma. The Annals of Thoracic Surgery. 2002. 74(15):1640-6.

Henschke, C. et al. Survival of patients with stage 1 lung cancer detected on CT screening. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2006. 355(17):1763-71.

Liu, Y. et al. Prognosis and Recurrent Patterns in Bronchioloalveolar Carcinoma. Chest. 2000. 118:940-947.

National Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Stage 0 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 02/10/12. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/non-small-cell-lung/HealthProfessional/page7.

National Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Stage 1 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 02/10/12. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/non-small-cell-lung/HealthProfessional/page8.

National Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Stage II Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 02/10/12. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/non-small-cell-lung/HealthProfessional/page9.

National Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (PDQ). Stage IIIA Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 02/10/12. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/non-small-cell-lung/HealthProfessional/page10

National Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (PDQ). Stage IIIB Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 02/10/12. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/non-small-cell-lung/HealthProfessional/page11

National Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (PDQ). Stage IV Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 02/10/12. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/non-small-cell-lung/HealthProfessional/page12.

National Cancer Institute. Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Updated 09/11/12. http://www.cancer.gov/CANCERTOPICS/PDQ/TREATMENT/SMALL-CELL-LUNG/PATIENT.

Parsons, A. et al. Influence of smoking cessation after diagnosis of early-stage lung cancer on prognosis: systematic review of observational studies with meta-analysis. British Medical Journal BMJ2010:340:b5569. Published online 21 January 2010.

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