Lung Cancer Stages
Lung cancer stages are used to specify the size and extent of a particular tumor. Physicians use a numerical staging system that ranges from zero to four, with higher numbers indicating more advanced cancers.
Staging is often determined at the time of diagnosis by reviewing a patient’s imaging scans. Physicians look at the images to see how large the tumor is and whether it has spread to surrounding structures in the lungs. Using that information, a physician will assign one of the following lung cancer stages:
- Stage 0 – These cancers are referred to as “in situ,” meaning “in place.” The tumors have not grown into nearby tissues, and there are no signs of cancer outside the lung.
- Stage 1 – These tumors are small (less than 5 centimeters wide) and have not spread to any nearby lymph nodes.
- Stage 2 – These tumors are still small (less than 7 centimeters wide) but have started to spread to the local lymph nodes or other nearby structures.
- Stage 3 – These cancers have spread to the lymph nodes in the center of the chest or other structures outside the lung.
- Stage 4 – These cancers have spread to more than one area in the other lung, the fluid surrounding the lung or additional organs elsewhere in the body.
Lung cancer stages can help a physician determine which therapies might be most helpful for their patients. However, stages don’t take into account the fact that every patient responds differently to treatment and that an assigned cancer stage isn’t necessarily a predictor of a patient’s prognosis. Nobody understands that better than Moffitt Cancer Center, where every patient receives an individualized treatment plan – regardless of the stage of their cancer. While our oncologists use evidence-based best practices to make their recommendations, we see our patients as much more than statistics, and we provide them with the tailored care they deserve.