Your long-term outcome (prognosis) depends on the type and
stage of your lung cancer. The 5-year survival rate means the percentage of
people who are still alive 5 years or longer after their cancer was discovered.
It is important to remember that these are only averages. Everyone's case is
different, and these numbers do not necessarily show what will happen to you.
The overall 5-year survival rate of 15% is low, because lung cancer is often not
detected until it has reached an advanced stage.1
lung cancer generally grows and spreads more slowly than small cell lung
cancer. The survival rates decrease as the
stage of cancer involves
lymph nodes or other body organs. In general, survival
rates are as shown in the table below:2
Recurrent non-small cell lung cancer survival rates
Your prognosis with non-small cell lung
cancer that comes back (recurrent cancer) depends on the stage of your lung
cancer when it was first diagnosed, as well as the stage of your cancer when it
recurs in the lungs. Treatment for recurrent cancer is based on the stage of
the cancer at the time it comes back.
Small cell cancer survival rates
Small cell lung
cancer is less common than non-small cell cancer but grows very rapidly in most
cases and is more likely to spread to other organs. Small cell lung cancer may be
staged as limited or extensive. Limited small cell
cancer is found only in one lung and in nearby
lymph nodes. Extensive small cell cancer has spread
(metastasized) outside of the lung to other tissues in the chest or to other
parts of the body. Only about one-third of people with small cell cancer have
limited disease at the time they are diagnosed, while two-thirds have extensive
disease. In general, survival rates are as
Small cell lung cancer stages and survival rates
Survival rate with treatment
2-year: About 40%
2-year: Less than 5%
Recurrent small cell lung cancer survival rates
People whose lung cancer returns after it is treated
have a poor prognosis, with most people living only 2 to 3 months after they
are diagnosed with recurrent disease.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2010). Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer,
version 2.2010. Available online:
Spira A, Ettinger DS (2004). Multidisciplinary
management of lung cancer. New England Journal of Medicine, 350(4): 379-392.
Dang TP, Carbone DP (2008). Cancer of the lung. In VT DeVita et al., eds., DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology, 8th ed., vol. 1, pp. 887-791. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
National Comprehensive Cancer Network (2009). Small Cell Lung Cancer, version
2.2009. Available online:
Primary Medical Reviewer
Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
Michael Seth Rabin, MD - Medical Oncology
May 27, 2010
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
May 27, 2010
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