Lung cancer is a devastating diagnosis. What are the four stages of the disease? And what does it tell you about the cancer cells?

Cancer Research UK explains that the grades of lung cancer signify the extent to which cells look abnormal under the microscope.

Lung cancer: Stage 1

Stage 1 lung cancer means the cancer is small and has remained in the lung.

If the cancer is smaller than 3cm, it’s called Stage 1A.

Stage 2B lung cancer can also indicate that the cancer is between 5cm and 7cm, but there are no cancer cells in any lymph nodes.

Or the cancer has spread into one or more of the following areas:

  • The chest wall (ribs, muscle or skin)
  • The nerve close to the lung (the phrenic nerve)
  • The layers that cover the heart (mediastinal pleura and parietal pericardium)

Or the cancer is less than 7cm, but there is more than one tumour in the same lobe of the lung.

Lung cancer: Stage 3

Stage 3A

Stage 3A lung cancer either means the cancer is up to 5cm in size and has spread to the lymph nodes in the centre of the chest on the same side as the tumour.

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Or the cancer is between 5cm and 7cm in size and there is more than one tumour in the same lobe of the lung.

Otherwise the cancer has spread into one or more of the follow areas just outside the lung:

  • The chest wall (ribs, muscle or skin)
  • The nerve close to the lung (the phrenic nerve)
  • The layers that cover the heart (mediastinal pleura and parietal pericardium)
  • Lymph nodes in the lung or close to the lung

Stage 3A lung cancer could mean the cancer is larger than 7cm, and it hasn’t spread to the lymph nodes, but has spread into one or more of the following areas:

  • The muscle under the lung (diaphragm)
  • The centre area of the chest (mediastinum)
  • The heart
  • A main blood vessel
  • The windpipe (trachea)
  • The nerve that goes to the voice box (larynx)
  • The food pipe (oesophagus)
  • A spinal bone
  • The area where the windpipe divides (the carina)

Or the cancer is in more than one lobe of the same lung, and there may be cancer cells in the lymph nodes closed to the affected lung.

Stage 3B

Either the cancer is less than 5cm and has spread into lymph nodes in one of these places:

  • The opposite side of the chest from the affected lung
  • The neck
  • Above the collarbone

Or the cancer is between 5cm to 7cm and has spread to lymph nodes in the centre of the chest.

Otherwise the cancer is any size and has spread into lymph nodes in the centre of the chest, and has spread into one or more of the following areas:

  • The chest wall
  • The muscle under the lung (diaphragm)
  • The layers that cover the heart (mediastinal pleura and parietal pericardium)

Stage 3B could also mean that the cancer has spread into the lymph nodes in the centre of the chest, and the tumour is more than 7cm or it has spread into:

  • The heart
  • The windpipe (trachea)
  • The food pipe (oesophagus)
  • A main blood vessel

Source: Daily Express

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