A thin membrane called the pleura covers the outside of each lung and lines the inside wall of the chest cavity. This creates a sac called the pleural cavity. The pleural cavity normally contains a small amount of fluid that helps the lungs move smoothly in the chest when you breathe.
A cancer that has spread to another part of the body is called a secondary cancer or metastasis. Not all lung cancers will spread. But if the cancer does spread there are certain parts of the body that it is more likely to go to. Advanced lung cancer means that the cancer has spread from where it started in the lung. It might also cause fluid that contains cancer cells to collect around the lung. This is called fluid on the lung or a pleural effusion.
About one fourth of all people with lung cancer have no symptoms when the cancer is diagnosed. These cancers are usually identified incidentally when a chest X-ray is performed for another reason. The other three-fourths of people develop some symptoms. The symptoms are due to direct effects of the primary tumor; to effects of cancer spread to other parts of the body (metastases); or to disturbances of hormones, blood, or other systems.
Symptoms of lung cancer include cough, coughing up blood or rusty-colored phlegm, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, recurrent respiratory infections, hoarseness, new wheezing, and shortness of breath. Stage IV lung cancer can be any T or N, meaning that the tumor can be any size and may or may not have grown into the nearby lymph nodes. The cancer can be categorized as either M1A or M1B. For M1A, any of the following will be true.
Lung cancer is considered a terminal illness with a five-year survival rate of about 16%. Informed decision-making related to the management of a disease requires accurate prognosis of the disease with or without treatment. Dana-Farber’s Lowe Center for Thoracic Oncology is committed to delivering the most innovative treatment options available to patients with all stages of lung and other thoracic cancers, with the goal of increasing survival and quality of life.
Lung Cancer Stages and Prognosis
Lung cancer stages are as under:
Stage I: The cancer is located only in the lungs and has not spread to any lymph nodes.
Stage II: The cancer is in the lung and nearby lymph nodes.
Stage III: Cancer is found in the lung and in the lymph nodes in the middle of the chest, also described as locally advanced disease. Stage III has two subtypes:
• If the cancer has spread only to lymph nodes on the same side of the chest where the cancer started, it is called stage IIIA.
• If the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest, or above the collar bone, it is called stage IIIB.
Stage IV: This is the most advanced stage of lung cancer, and is also described as advanced disease. This is when the cancer has spread to both lungs, to fluid in the area around the lungs, or to another part of the body, such as the liver or other organs.
The prognosis for lung cancer is an estimate based on the course of the disease taken from studying hundreds or thousands of people who have been diagnosed.
Survival rate is the percentage of people with a type and stage of cancer who survive a specific period of time after diagnosis. It is a common way in which prognosis is discussed. In cancer, five year survival rates are often used. While statistics can tell us many things about prognosis and survival, it is not possible to predict how long someone in treatment for the disease will live.
Stage 4 Lung Cancer Life Expectancy with and without Treatment
The overall 5-year survival rate for both stages of small cell lung cancer (limited stage plus extensive stage) is only about 6 percent. Without treatment, the average life expectancy for extensive disease is 2 to 4months, and with treatment is 6 to 12 months.
Stage 4 Lung Cancer Treatment
Stage 4 lung cancer treatment aims to control the cancer for as long as possible and help with symptoms. Following are the treatment options for stage 4 lung a cancer:
- Biological therapy.
- Symptom control treatment, such as treatment to help you breathe more easily.
Radiation therapy can be given if a person refuses surgery, if a tumor has spread to areas such as the lymph nodes or trachea making surgical removal impossible, or if a person has other conditions that make them too ill to undergo major surgery.