Lung Cancer

How long can a person with lung cancer live?

A Answers (3)

  • Many believe that the diagnosis of lung cancer is a death sentence. The reality is that survival with lung cancer depends on the stage of the disease once diagnosed, what treatments are utilized and what other medical problems the patient may have. Stage I lung cancer is usually treated with surgery and is curable in 60 to 80% of cases. This means that between 60 and 80 out of 100 patients with stage I lung cancer remain alive 5 years after having their lung cancer removed. After 5 years, such patients remain at risk to develop another lung cancer and should have continued annual surveillance by their surgeon, oncologist or primary physician. Most patients who are cured have a normal life expectancy. In contrast, stage IV lung cancer is essentially incurable with fewer than 5% of patients alive 5 years after diagnosis. The expected survival for patients with stage II and stage III disease lies between this and the stage I values. These figures assume that patients receive and tolerate treatment that can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or surgery in a variety of combinations and sequences. If lung cancer is diagnosed but not treated, the average time to death is about one year.
  • A Dr William D. Bolton, MD, Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular), answered on behalf of Greenville Health System

    The length of time a person can live depends on what stage of cancer is in when diagnosed, how well the cancer responds to therapy and what mutations the cancer cells have. 

    • Stage 1: The cancer is small and limited to the lung. It can be treated with either surgery or radiation therapy alone. These patients have the best chance for cure and survival.
    • Stage 2: The cancer is either larger, has grown into the chest wall, or has spread to local lymph nodes. Multiple different types of treatment are required, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgical resection. Survival in this stage is worse than that seen for patients in stage 1.
    • Stage 3: The cancer has spread to regional lymph nodes and tumors may have grown into other organs. Multiple types of treatments are required. For some patients, surgical removal of tumors is no longer an option. Survival in this stage is worse than that seen for patients in stage 2.
    • Stage 4: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Patients do not typically have a chance at long-term cure with surgery. They typically undergo chemotherapy and are occasionally treated with radiation to help with their symptoms. The chance of long-term survival is worst in this stage of lung cancer.
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  • A Dr Alla Gimelfarb, MD, Hematology & Oncology, answered on behalf of NorthShore University HealthSystem

    The answer to this question depends on the stage of the lung cancer.  If the lung cancer is diagnosed in an early stage, this is potentially a curative disease and can be often cured with surgery or radiation or chemotherapy.  However, if the lung cancer is diagnosed with late stage, this is not usually a curative disease and the life expectancy depends on multiple factors.  A lot of that depends on the stage of the disease, the site of metastases, the performance status of the patient, in other words, how good general health the person is, and the nature of the lung cancer.  In short, there is no one answer to this question.   We now know that we can identify a separate group of patients with variable types of lung cancer and their survival rates are different.  In conclusion, I would like to say that every person with lung cancer is different and their survival depends on multiple factors.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.
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