The stage of lung cancer depends mainly on...
- The size of the lung tumor
- How deeply the tumor has invaded nearby tissue, such as the chest wall
- Whether lung cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes or other parts of the body
Stages of Non-small Cell Lung Cancer
Doctors describe the stages of non-small cell lung cancer using the Roman numerals I, II, III, and IV. Stage I is early-stage cancer, and Stage IV is advanced cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones.
You can find pictures of the stages and other information on NCI's website at http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/lung.
Occult Stage Lung Tumor
Tumor cells are found in sputum, but CT scans and other imaging tests don't show a lung tumor.
Stage 0 Lung Tumor
Stage I Lung Cancer
The lung tumor is an invasive cancer. It has grown through the innermost lining of the lung into deeper lung tissue. The tumor is surrounded by normal tissue, and it doesn't invade nearby tissues, such as the chest wall.
The tumor is no more than 5 centimeters (about 2 inches) across. Cancer cells are not found in nearby lymph nodes.
Stage II Lung Cancer
The lung tumor is smaller than 7 centimeters across, and cancer cells are found in nearby lymph nodes.
Or, cancer cells are not found in nearby lymph nodes. The lung tumor is more than 5 centimeters across, or it invades nearby tissues, such as the chest wall, diaphragm, pleura, main bronchus, or tissue that surrounds the heart. More than one malignant tumor may be found within the same lobe of the lung.
Stage III Lung Cancer
The tumor may be any size. More than one malignant tumor may be found within the lung.
Cancer cells may be found in lymph nodes on either side of the chest or the neck. The tumor may have invaded nearby organs, such as the heart, esophagus, or trachea.
Stage IV Lung Cancer
Malignant tumors are found in both lungs. Or, the lung cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the brain, bones, liver, or adrenal glands. Or, cancer cells are found in fluid between the two layers of pleura. (See picture of pleura.)
Stages of Small Cell Lung Cancer
Most doctors describe the stages of small cell lung cancer with two stages:
- Limited stage: Cancer is found only on one side of the chest.
- Extensive stage: Cancer is found in the lung and also in tissues on the other side of the chest. Or, lung cancer is found in distant organs, such as the brain, or in fluid between the two layers of pleura. (See picture of pleura.)
Instead of limited and extensive stage, some doctors describe the stages of small cell lung cancer using the Roman numerals I, II, III, and IV. (See Stages of Non-small Cell Lung Cancer above.)