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Lung Cancer Health Center

Stages of Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer

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After lung cancer has been diagnosed, tests are done to find out if cancer cells have spread within the lungs or to other parts of the body. continued...

Mediastinoscopy. A mediastinoscope is inserted into the chest through an incision above the breastbone to look for abnormal areas between the lungs. A mediastinoscope is a thin, tube-like instrument with a light and a lens for viewing. It may also have a cutting tool. Tissue samples may be taken from lymph nodes on the right side of the chest and checked under a microscope for signs of cancer. In an anterior mediastinotomy (Chamberlain procedure), the incision is made beside the breastbone to remove tissue samples from the lymph nodes on the left side of the chest.

  • Anterior mediastinotomy: A surgical procedure to look at the organs and tissues between the lungs and between the breastbone and spine for abnormal areas. An incision (cut) is made next to the breastbone and an endoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into the chest. Tissue and lymph node samples may be taken for biopsy. This is also called the Chamberlain procedure.
  • Bone scan: A procedure to check if there are rapidly dividing cells, such as cancer cells, in the bone. A very small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein and travels through the bloodstream. The radioactive material collects in the bones and is detected by a scanner.

The following stages are used for non-small cell lung cancer:

Occult (hidden) stage

In the occult (hidden) stage, cancer cells are found in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs), but no tumor can be found in the lung by imaging or bronchoscopy, or the primary tumor is too small to be checked.

Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ)

In stage 0 (carcinoma in situ), cancer is in the lung only and has not spread beyond the innermost lining of the lung.

Stage I

Stage I is divided into stages IA and IB:

  • Stage IA: The tumor is in the lung only and is 3 centimeters or smaller.
  • Stage IB: One or more of the following is true:
    • The tumor is larger than 3 centimeters.
    • Cancer has spread to the main bronchus of the lung, and is at least 2 centimeters from the carina (where the trachea joins the bronchi).
    • Cancer has spread to the innermost layer of the membrane that covers the lungs.
    • The tumor partly blocks the bronchus or bronchioles and part of the lung has collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung).

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