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What do the stages of non-small-cell lung cancer mean?

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Based on what your doctor finds, he or she will assign a stage describing where the cancer is. That will help your medical team figure out the best treatment for you. You’ll want to know what each stage means:

  • Occult stage: "Occult" means "hidden." Cancer cells are in lung fluid or sputum, but the doctor can't find where the cancer is in your lungs.
  • Stage 0: Cancer cells are in the lining of your airways.
  • Stage I: A small tumor is in only one lung. The cancer hasn't spread to lymph nodes.
  • Stage II: A larger tumor is in one lung, or the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage III: Cancer in one lung has spread to farther lymph nodes or into nearby structures.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread to both lungs, to fluid around the lungs, or to other parts of the body, such as the brain and liver.

From: Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer WebMD Medical Reference

SOURCES:

College of American Pathologists: "Lung Cancer: Lung Adenocarcinoma."

National Cancer Institute: "General Information About Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer," "Eating Problems and Ways To Manage Them," "Your Feelings: Learning You Have Cancer."

Medscape: "Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment & Management."

University of Southern California: "A Patient's Guide to Lung Surgery."

Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library: "Mediastinoscopy."

LungCancer.org: "Types and Staging of Lung Cancer."

Medline Plus: "Radiation Therapy."

American Cancer Society: "Photodynamic Therapy," "Managing symptoms of advanced cancer, by location," "Lung Cancer (Non-Small Cell)," "Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home."

UpToDate: "Patient information: Non-small cell lung cancer treatment; stage I to III cancer (Beyond the Basics)."

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on March 1, 2017

SOURCES:

College of American Pathologists: "Lung Cancer: Lung Adenocarcinoma."

National Cancer Institute: "General Information About Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer," "Eating Problems and Ways To Manage Them," "Your Feelings: Learning You Have Cancer."

Medscape: "Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment & Management."

University of Southern California: "A Patient's Guide to Lung Surgery."

Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library: "Mediastinoscopy."

LungCancer.org: "Types and Staging of Lung Cancer."

Medline Plus: "Radiation Therapy."

American Cancer Society: "Photodynamic Therapy," "Managing symptoms of advanced cancer, by location," "Lung Cancer (Non-Small Cell)," "Caring for the Patient With Cancer at Home."

UpToDate: "Patient information: Non-small cell lung cancer treatment; stage I to III cancer (Beyond the Basics)."

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini on March 1, 2017

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Where can I get my support in dealing with lung cancer?

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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

    This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

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