After someone is diagnosed with stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer I am often asked is “what is stage 3 lung cancer life expectancy?” Not unexpected, since 30% of people have already progressed to stage 3 lung cancer (and 40% to stage 4) at the time they are diagnosed. Before answering the question though, it is important to talk a little about how the answer – the statistical answer – is derived.
VariablesStage 3 lung cancer life expectancy can vary considerably among different people. Some of these variables include:
- Your particular lung cancer type – Stage 3 lung cancer encompasses several lung cancer types
- The location of your cancer - Stage 3 lung cancer is broken down into stage 3A lung cancer and stage 3B lung cancer, depending upon which tissues near the lungs that the cancer has spread to
- 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 chemotherapy, targeted therapies, 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 may lower stage 3 lung cancer life expectancy
- Complications of lung cancer – Complications such as blood clots can lower lung cancer life expectancy
StatisticsIn 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 when newer treatments were unavailable.
That said, the median life expectancy for stage 3 non-small cell lung cancer (the time at which 50% of patients are alive and 50% have passed away) is around 15 months for stage 3A and 13 months for stage 3B. The 5-year survival rate -- that is the percent of people who are expected to be alive 5 years after a diagnosis of stage 3 lung cancer -- is sadly only 23% for stage 3A and around 10% for stage 3B.
One last thing that it is very important to keep in mind. While stage 3 lung cancer may or may not be curable, it is treatable. These treatments may not only improve survival, but help with the symptoms of lung cancer as well. Several treatments are currently being evaluated in clinical trials, and offer hope that stage 3 lung cancer life expectancy will improve in the future. The National Cancer Institute states that all individuals with stage 3 lung cancer should be considered candidates for clinical trials.
- Non-Medical/Natural Ways to Improve Lung Cancer Survival
- Stage 3A Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
- Stage 3B Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
- Coping With Lung Cancer - Caring for Yourself, Family Support, and End of Life Issues
National Cancer Institute. Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (PDQ). Stage IIIA Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. 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. 02/10/12. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/non-small-cell-lung/HealthProfessional/page11