Lung Cancer

Frequently Asked Questions

19. How does a doctor determine how far a lung cancer has progressed?

Once lung cancer has been found, it is usually staged. Staging means determining how far the cancer has progressed. Through staging, the doctor can tell if the cancer has spread and, if so, to what parts of the body. Lung cancer often spreads to the brain or bones. Knowing the stage of the disease helps the doctor plan treatment.

Small cell lung cancer is divided into two stages. Limited stage is generally cancer confined to the chest and extensive stage is cancer that has spread outside the chest.

Non-small cell lung cancer is divided into four stages, I-IV. Most patients with stage I and II non-small cell tumors and some patients with stage III tumors can undergo surgery with the goal of cure. Stage IV denotes cancer that has spread to other sites in the body, most often bone, brain, or liver. Most stage IV cancers cannot be cured, although treatment may be available to help prolong life.