The lifespan and survival rate of patients diagnosed with stage III lung cancer depends on the type and subtype of the cancerous tumor.
Typically, there are four stages for any cancer progression, with each stage representing the extent or spread, number and size of the tumor in the body. After identifying the stage, doctors decide the right treatment and can determine how long a person may survive after the cancer diagnosis.
Stage III lung cancer represents the stage when the tumor from the lung has spread to the nearby structures, including lymph nodes, tissues or organs. As it has not spread to distant structures, it is also called locally advanced or locoregional cancer.
What are the different types of stage III lung cancer?
Based on the type of predominant cells in the tumor, lung cancer is mainly classified into two types:
NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer, grows slower and carries better chances of survival than SCLC. In comparison, SCLC is rarer but much more aggressive. The numbered stages are used mainly with the more common type, NSCLC.
Doctors split stage III lung cancer (like most stages) into three main subtypes. This subtyping helps doctors get more detailed information about lung cancer so that they can treat it in the best way possible.
The subtypes of stage III lung cancer include:
- Stage IIIA. Cancer has spread to the nearby lymph nodes and could be in certain nearby tissues as well. However, it has not reached distant organs.
- Stage IIIB. The lung cancer has spread to the lymph nodes above the collarbone and may be in lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest. Cancer may also be in certain nearby tissues but it has not spread to the distant organs.
- Stage IIIC. Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes above the collarbone or lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest. Cancer may have also reached the chest wall, heart, breastbone and other nearby tissues but has not spread to distant organs.
What is the lifespan and survival rate of stage III lung cancer?
Lifespan depends on the stage of the tumor at the time of its diagnosis and is generally predicted from survival rates.
The survival rate is analyzed in a large study, in which the lifespan of a large population, after the diagnosis of cancer, is observed for a specific timeframe. It is generally presented as a five-year survival rate (what percentage of people lived for at least five years after the diagnosis).
According to the American Cancer Society (ASC), the overall five-year survival rate for stage III NSCLC is 35 percent. This means that people who have stage III NSCLC, on average, are about 35 percent likely to live for at least five years after diagnosis of cancer compared to people who don’t have that cancer.
The overall five-year survival rate for stage III SCLC is about 16 percent.
Survival rates for cancer are often used as predictors of how long patients can live beyond a certain number of years (usually at least five years) after the diagnosis. However, these may vary depending on the patient’s age, overall health and response to treatments. Hence, discuss all these factors with your doctor to better predict your life expectancy.
Remember, survival rates are calculated at a particular point in time, which means they may improve with advances in treatments in later years. This is why patients must always ask their doctor even after they know general survival rates.