Once you’ve been diagnosed with lung cancer, the next essential step is to determine the stage of your disease. Staging is critical because it’s how your doctor determines the way forward with treatment. It’s also not something that happens once. If your doctor suspects you’re not responding to the current treatment regimen, they may request that you go through the process again.
How Lung Cancer Is Staged
The stage of your lung cancer is generally based on the size and location of the primary tumor, if the tumor has spread to the nearby lymph nodes, and if the tumor has spread to other organs.
To get this information, your doctor may recommend having a biopsy done as well as imaging tests like computed tomography (CT) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain.
Depending on the type of lung cancer you have, the doctor will use different terms to describe what you’re dealing with. In small cell lung cancer, the abnormal cells originate in the lung tissue and this is typically staged using the numbers 0-4.
Non-small cell lung cancer, on the other hand, means that abnormal cells cause the growth of carcinomas, which are cancers of the cells lining the surface of the airways – the bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli.
In this case, your doctor might use the letters TNM along with the numbers. ‘T’ stands for the size and location of the tumor, ‘N’ indicates if the cancerous cells are affecting any lymph nodes, and ‘M’ defines whether or not the tumors have spread.
What Each Stage Means
At stage zero, the tumor is small and there are no signs that the cancerous cells have spread into the lung’s tissues or to other areas of the body. If the abnormal cells have spread deeper into the lung’s tissues, then this is categorized as stage one.
With stage two lung cancer, there are signs that the cancerous cells have spread to the lymph nodes that are near your lungs.
By stage three, the cancerous cells would have spread farther into the lymph nodes as well as to the