Lung Cancer Stages

The Different Stages of Lung Cancer

Patients who suffer from lung cancer are generally afflicted with one of two types: SCLC (small cell lung cancer) or NSCLC (non-small cell lug cancer). Healthcare professionals determine stages of cancer by examining patients and identifying whether the disease is local or has expanded to other organs or the lymph nodes. In early stages, cancer is often hard for healthcare professionals and patients to detect because its symptoms are not noticeable. For example, minor symptoms from early stage lung cancer could be mistaken for simple fatigue or coughing. Diagnosis typically occurs in stages III-IV.


85% of all lung cancers are classified as NSCLC. There are four stages of NSCLC, but stage III consists of two sub-types.

Stage I: At this point, the cancer is local. This means it is “in place,” and has not expanded to other organs or the lymph nodes.

Stage II: Along with remaining in the lung, the cancer has spread to lymph nodes nearby.

Stage III: In this stage, cancer affects both the lung and lymph nodes at the center of the chest. Healthcare professionals determine that a patient is in stage IIIA of lung cancer if the cancer has expanded to lymph nodes located in the same part of the chest where the disease originally began. A patient is in Stage IIIB if the cancer has spread to lymph nodes in other parts of the chest, or if the cancer has extended beyond the collar bone.

Stage IV: This stage is generally recognized as lung cancer’s most advanced phase. In stage IV, the cancer can be found in both lungs, fluids surrounding the lungs, as well as other nearby organs.


15% of lung cancers are classified as SCLC. Often times, SCLC is a direct result from smoking. It is much more aggressive than NSCLC, meaning that it tends to spread and progress rapidly. Additionally, patients with SCLC tend to respond very well to chemotherapy. SCLC has two basic stages.

Limited Stage: At this point, the cancer is located in one area or side of the chest. It typically involves an area of the lung, as well as lymph nodes nearby.

Extensive Stage: Healthcare professionals determine that patients are in this stage when the cancer has extended to other chest areas or to other body parts altogether.

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