The following diagrams depict normal lung anatomy(above) and the various stages of lung cancer(below) as based upon the latest American Joint Commision on Cancer (AJCC) Cancer Staging Manual, Eighth Edition copywrite 2017.

This data is presented so you can understand how your stage of lung cancer was determined by a combination of specific factors regarding the tumors size and location (T), local spread, lymph node involvement(N 1, 2 0r 3) and distant metastatic spread(M) i.e.  the T.N.M. system(see the TNM Staging page for a detailed explaination of what each ).
Accurate stagging helps your physicians determine which therapy is right for you. This is why biopsies, Ct Scans, PET scans and brain MRI’s are done to gather all the specific “TNM” data needed to stage your cancer(see the Work up of a lung nodule page for a description of typical radiographic tests).

Overall AJCC statistical survival data is listed at the bottom of each page for that pariticular stage with the range being from pathological to clinical survival rates(clinical is based on your X-ray image information, pathological is based upon the specimens actual examination, usually post resection).Though survival is clearly worse as the stages get higher. ….

REMEMBER: You are NOT a statistic, but an individual human being!

Yes, survival is best at stage I-II with a rapid drop off to stage IV, but much has changed in the last few years in the diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer that was probably not part of the survival statistics quoted by the AJCC. Specifically lung screening is finding more cancers early and rapid identification of tumor biomarker is allowing oncologists to deliver targeted therapies to certain lung cancer that can sometimes double your survival rate. This is all relatively new treatment and expanding rapidly , so you need to know that Hope is alway there. (see Biomarkers, liquid biopsy page for more information)

The captions below each  diagram mention common treatments for that stage for Non-Small Cell Carcinoma (NSCCa) of the lung. Small Cell Lung Cancer responds differently than NSCCa and often is treated medically with Chemo-Radiation therapy at most stages. (see page describing lung cancer in general). Though surgery can be considered in early node negative tumors.

It is most obvious from the survival numbers that diagnosing lung cancer early at a low stage is critical to long term survival.
1. Please try to quit smoking, the sooner you do the less your risk is for cancer and the better your health will be.
2. Check with your primary care physician to see if Low Dose CT scan Lung screening is right for you. It saves lives(see Lung Screening page for more details)

Your specific stage needs to be determined by your Cancer team. These diagrams are designed to educate you on definitions and the general categorization process, not define your exact clinical situation or treatment recommendations. Get invoved and learn. Be a major part of your own healthcare team.


Stage IA1 Usually surgical excision is recommended, unless your not in good physical shape. Then stereotactic radiation therapy may be indicated. (see Lung Surgery page)


Stage IA2 Usually surgical excision is recommended, unless your not in good physical shape. Then stereotactic radiation therapy may be indicated. (see Lung Surgery page)


Stage IA3 Usually surgical excision is recommended, unless your not in good physical shape. Then stereotactic radiation therapy may be indicated. (see Lung Surgery page)


Stage IB Usually surgical excision is recommended, unless your not in good physical shape. Then stereotactic radiation therapy may be indicated. (see Lung Surgery page)


Stage IIA Usually surgical excision is recommended, unless your not in good physical shape. Then stereotactic radiation therapy may be indicated. (see Lung Surgery page)


Stage IIB Usually surgical excision is recommended, unless your not in good physical shape. Chemotherapy may be indicated post resection. (see Lung Surgery page)


Stage IIIA Chemotherapy and radiation therapy is usually recommended first with possible surgical resection if significant tumor regression is achieved


Stage IIIB Chemotherapy and radiation therapy is usually recommended


Stage IIIC Chemotherapy and radiation therapy is usually recommended


Stage IVA Chemotherapy is indicated, possible targeted or immune therapy per your Oncologist. In certain specific cases lung resection and resection of a solitary metastatic lesion is indicated.


Stage IVB Chemotherapy is indicated, possible targeted or immune therapy per your Oncologist.

The following is a quick reference chart created to help understand how lung cancer is staged by the three T.N.M. ( Tumor size, Nodal status, Metastases) criteria for any lung tumor.

(Please see the TNM staging page for full TNM additional explanatory diagrams)

Download this Chart


Get educated, Seize Your Lung….Seize Your Life!