Life Expectancy for Stage Four Lung Cancer


Lung cancer is one of the most deadly and aggressive cancers. Unlike some cancers, major breakthroughs in treatment and improvements in survival rates are lacking. The term "stage 4" indicates the lung cancer has spread to distant sites in the body such as the liver or bones.

Determining Prognosis

  • Doctors use data that compiles the number of people still living five years after diagnosis with a particular type and stage of cancer. This data helps the doctor determine a prognosis, but no one can absolutely predict how long someone will survive a particular cancer.

Stage 4 Small Cell Lung Cancer

  • Small cell lung cancer accounts for 10 to 15 percent of lung cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. It starts in the middle of the lungs near the bronchi and the cancer cells are smaller than normal. While it is less common, it is usually more aggressive. The five-year survival fate for stage four small cell lung cancer is 2 percent, the cancer society reports.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

  • Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for the large majority of cancers and is broken down into three subtypes, determined by location, says the American Cancer Society. The ACS reports a five-year survival rate of 2 percent.

Considerations for Treatment

  • Treatments for this stage of lung cancer vary. Chemotherapy and radiation might be a possibility depending on where it has spread. In stage four lung cancer, the treatments aim to ease symptoms and possibly prolong survival. Your doctor can discuss the risks and benefits of various treatments.

Clinical Trials

  • Clinical trials are always underway for all stages of various cancers. If you are interested in trying new treatments to prolong survival, consider joining a trial. Your doctor can help you find the necessary information. You can also call the National Cancer Institute at 1-800-4-CANCER or visit its website at

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