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What is Stage 1 Lung Cancer Life Expectancy?


Updated May 16, 2014

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

Question: What is Stage 1 Lung Cancer Life Expectancy?

A very common question I am asked when someone is diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer is “what is stage 1 lung cancer life expectancy?” Not surprising, since lung cancer has a reputation for having a low survival rate. Thankfully, for those people who are diagnosed when lung cancer is at stage 1, the life expectancy is much better than it is at more advanced stages of the disease. Before answering the question though, it is important to talk a little about how the answer – the statistical answer – is derived.

Stage 1 Lung Cancer Life Expectancy Variables

Stage 1 lung cancer life expectancy can vary considerably among different people. Some of these variables include:
  • Your particular lung cancer type and location – non-small cell lung cancer spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer. Depending upon the location of your cancer, some cancers are easier to treat with surgery or radiation therapy than are other cancers.
  • Your age – Younger people tend to live longer than older people with lung cancer
  • Your sex – The life expectancy for woman with lung cancer is higher at each stage of lung cancer
  • Your general health at the time of diagnosis – Being healthy overall at the time of diagnosis is associated with a longer life expectancy, and a greater ability to withstand treatments that may extend survival
  • How you respond to treatment – Side effects of treatments such as surgery and radiation therapy vary among different people, and may limit your ability to tolerate treatment
  • Other health conditions you may have – Health conditions such as emphysema or heart disease may lower stage 1 lung cancer life expectancy
  • Smoking - Quitting smoking before surgery for stage 1 lung cancer, appears to significantly improve the survival rate

Stage 1 Lung Cancer Life Expectancy Statistics

In addition to variations between different people, it is important to keep in mind that statistics are frequently a few years old. For example, the most recent statistics we have for lung cancer are from 2005. With advances in treatment, statistics may not be the same as they were before newer treatments were unavailable.

That said, the overall 5-year survival rate for people with stage 1 lung cancer is 60 to 80%. Recent studies suggest that finding lung cancer early through screening may result in 5-year survival rates of 90% or more. Several methods of screening for lung cancer are being evaluated in clinical trials, and offer hope that more lung cancers will be detected in this early, more treatable stage.

Further Reading:


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.

Kelsey, C. et al. Local/regional recurrence following surgery for early-stage lung cancer: A 10-year experience with 975 patients. Journal of Clinical Oncology. 2008. 26, No 15S(May 20 Suppl):7542.

Martini, N. et al. Incidence of local recurrence and second primary tumors in resected stage 1 lung cancer. Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. 1995. 109(1):120-9.

National Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Stage 1 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. 08/01/08. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/non-small-cell-lung/HealthProfessional/page8.

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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