In the United States, as well as worldwide, lung cancer is the leading cause of death among adults. Cancer starts out as normal cells. Somewhere along the way these cells grow and multiply in an uncontrolled fashion. These cancer cells then form a mass that is different from the rest of the tissue. The majority of lung masses are malignant, meaning they are cancerous. They will steal oxygen and nutrients from the tissue surrounding and destroy it. Concurrently, the cancer cells also spread rapidly to other areas of the body and grow other tumors.
Lung cancer progression is divided into stages and described according to how severe the disease is.
The lung cancer stages for non-small cell lung cancer are as follows:
Lung cancer stage 0: Newly found lung cancer is noted and within only a small area and invading only the very top few cell layers. It has not delved into the lungs surface lining.
Lung cancer stage I: This lung cancer stage has normal tissue surrounding it at this point. The lung cancer remains in the lungs only at this time.
Lung cancer stage II: The lung cancer has progressed and now has spread and invaded the surrounding lymph nodes. Treatment of lung cancer stage I or II would primarily involve a surgical resection of the tumor. If during the resection surgery the lung cancer was found to be more extensive then radiation therapy or radiotherapy may be advised. If the lung cancer patient was in a weakened condition surgical resection would not be carried out and instead radiation therapy or radiotherapy would be done alone.
Lung cancer stage III: Further progression of the lung cancer is noted with areas of invasion noted within the chest wall, the diaphragm, and the surrounding blood vessels and/or organs. There is further possibility that the lymph nodes in the mediastinum, as well as the other side of the neck and chest have also been affected. Treatment of lung cancer stage III could be carried out by either surgical resection of the tumor, radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Lung cancer stage III is more complex and actually broken done into a few different stages within it. Treatment would depend how extensive the stage is at the time.
Lung cancer stage IV: The rapid growing cells have multiplied extensively and the lung cancer has most likely made its way to the other areas of the body. Treatment of lung cancer stage IV would be chemotherapy or comfort care measures.
A lung cancer patient is advised to be closely monitored and discuss and determine with his physician each aspect of treatment along the way. Pros and cons of each treatment will help you and your physician come to terms with the treatment that is the most beneficial to the particular stage of lung cancer that you are in.