Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Lung Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - Stages of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

continued...

There are three ways that cancer spreads in the body.

The three ways that cancer spreads in the body are:

  • Through tissue. Cancer invades the surrounding normal tissue.
  • Through the lymph system. Cancer invades the lymph system and travels through the lymph vessels to other places in the body.
  • Through the blood. Cancer invades the veins and capillaries and travels through the blood to other places in the body.

When cancer cells break away from the primary (original) tumor and travel through the lymph or blood to other places in the body, another (secondary) tumor may form. This process is called metastasis. The secondary (metastatic) tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor. For example, if breast cancer spreads to the bones, the cancer cells in the bones are actually breast cancer cells. The disease is metastatic breast cancer, not bone cancer.

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

Occult (hidden) stage

In the occult (hidden) stage, cancer cannot be seen by imaging or bronchoscopy. Cancer cells are found in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs) or bronchial washing (a sample of cells taken from inside the airways that lead to the lung). Cancer may have spread to other parts of the body.

Stage 0 (carcinoma in situ)

In stage 0, abnormal cells are found in the lining of the airways. These abnormal cells may become cancer and spread into nearby normal tissue. Stage 0 is also called carcinoma in situ.

Stage I

cdr0000520459.jpg
Stage I non-small cell lung cancer. In stage IA, cancer is in the lung only and is 3 cm or smaller. In stage IB, the cancer is (a) larger than 3 cm but not larger than 5 cm, (b) has spread to the main bronchus, and/or (c) has spread to the innermost layer of the lung lining. Part of the lung may have collapsed or become inflamed (not shown).

In stage I, cancer has formed. 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: Cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes and one or more of the following is true:
    • The tumor is larger than 3 centimeters but not larger than 5 centimeters.
    • Cancer has spread to the main bronchus and is at least 2 centimeters below where the trachea joins the bronchus.
    • Cancer has spread to the innermost layer of the membrane that covers the lung.
    • Part of the lung has collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung) in the area where the trachea joins the bronchus.

Stage II

Stage II is divided into stages IIA and IIB. Stage IIA and IIB are each divided into two sections depending on the size of the tumor, where the tumor is found, and whether there is cancer in the lymph nodes.

  • Stage IIA:
    cdr0000520465.jpg
    Stage IIA non-small cell lung cancer. Cancer has spread to certain lymph nodes on the same side of the chest as the primary tumor; the cancer is (a) 5 cm or smaller, (b) has spread to the main bronchus, and/or (c) has spread to the innermost layer of the lung lining. OR, cancer has not spread to lymph nodes; the cancer is (d) larger than 5 cm but not larger than 7 cm, (e) has spread to the main bronchus, and/or (f) has spread to the innermost layer of the lung lining. Part of the lung may have collapsed or become inflamed (not shown).

    (1) Cancer has spread to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest as the tumor. The lymph nodes with cancer are within the lung or near the bronchus. Also, one or more of the following is true:

    • The tumor is not larger than 5 centimeters.
    • Cancer has spread to the main bronchus and is at least 2 centimeters below where the trachea joins the bronchus.
    • Cancer has spread to the innermost layer of the membrane that covers the lung.
    • Part of the lung has collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung) in the area where the trachea joins the bronchus.

    or

    (2) Cancer has not spread to lymph nodes and one or more of the following is true:

    • The tumor is larger than 5 centimeters but not larger than 7 centimeters.
    • Cancer has spread to the main bronchus and is at least 2 centimeters below where the trachea joins the bronchus.
    • Cancer has spread to the innermost layer of the membrane that covers the lung.
    • Part of the lung has collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung) in the area where the trachea joins the bronchus.
  • Stage IIB:
    cdr0000682110.jpg
    Stage IIB non-small cell lung cancer. Cancer has spread to certain lymph nodes on the same side of the chest as the primary tumor; the cancer is (a) larger than 5 cm but not larger than 7 cm, (b) has spread to the main bronchus, and/or (c) has spread to the innermost layer of the lung lining. Part of the lung may have collapsed or become inflamed (not shown). OR, (d) the cancer is larger than 7 cm; (e) has spread to the main bronchus, (f) the diaphragm, (g) the chest wall or the lining of the chest wall; and/or (h) has spread to the membrane around the heart. There may be one or more separate tumors in the same lobe of the lung; cancer may have spread to the nerve that controls the diaphragm; the whole lung may have collapsed or become inflamed (not shown).

    (1) Cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes on the same side of the chest as the tumor. The lymph nodes with cancer are within the lung or near the bronchus. Also, one or more of the following is true:

    • The tumor is larger than 5 centimeters but not larger than 7 centimeters.
    • Cancer has spread to the main bronchus and is at least 2 centimeters below where the trachea joins the bronchus.
    • Cancer has spread to the innermost layer of the membrane that covers the lung.
    • Part of the lung has collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung) in the area where the trachea joins the bronchus.

    or

    (2) Cancer has not spread to lymph nodes and one or more of the following is true:

    • The tumor is larger than 7 centimeters.
    • Cancer has spread to the main bronchus (and is less than 2 centimeters below where the trachea joins the bronchus), the chest wall, the diaphragm, or the nerve that controls the diaphragm.
    • Cancer has spread to the membrane around the heart or lining the chest wall.
    • The whole lung has collapsed or developed pneumonitis (inflammation of the lung).
    • There are one or more separate tumors in the same lobe of the lung.
    :
1|2|3|4|5

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

lung cancer overview slideshow
SLIDESHOW
what is your cancer risk
HEALTH CHECK
 
Using GPS to Detect Lung Cancer
VIDEO
mans hand putting out cigarette
Article
 
15 Cancer Symptoms Men Ignore
FEATURE
Lung Cancer Risks Myths and Facts
SLIDESHOW
 
cancer fighting foods
SLIDESHOW
Improving Lung Cancer Survival Targeted Therapy
VIDEO
 
Lung Cancer Surprising Differences Between Sexes
VIDEO
Pets Improve Your Health
SLIDESHOW
 
Vitamin D
SLIDESHOW
Lung Cancer Surgery Options
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections