How Long a Person With Lung Cancer Can Live (And Why?)

Exact Answer: Up to 5 years

Cancer is one of the most researched and probed fields in the medical industry, and while we have come a long way with better medicines and treatments there is still a long way to go. The treatment, medicine, care, symptoms, diagnosis, and more is very subjective and there is no “one size fits all” scenario.  

The five-year survival rate is computed on the basis of how many people stay alive after being diagnosed with lung cancer at different stages. There are two broad types of cancer which are small cell, which is the more aggressive type while the non-small cell is more common. 

How Long a Person With Lung Cancer Can Live?

Small cell lung cancer(SCLC) is the more virulent type though it is rarer. It is generally caused by cigarette smoking and there are two stages of it which are limited and extensive. The five-year survival rate has varying percent of survival for different stages. For all stages it is about 6.5%, localized is 27.2%, regionalized 16.4% and distant stage is 2.9%. 

Non-small lung cancer is a more common one but it is far less invasive and virulent. They are usually found in the outer portion of the lungs and there are four stages of it which are Tumour, Node, in which there is an indication of whether the cancer is present in the lymph node and finally, Metastasis where cancer spreads to the other part of the body. Finally is the Occult stage where cancer cells are present in the sputum.  For non-small lung cancer the five-year survival rate is also varied which is actually better than the small lung cancer variant. In the case of all stages, there is a survival rate of 24.6%, for the localized stage, it is 63.2%, for the regionalized stage it is 35.4% and finally, for the distant stage, it is 14.5%. 

The symptoms of lung cancer range from a long-standing cough that gets worse, chest infections that keep coming back, chest ache, breathlessness and weight loss. 

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 Lung cancer 5-year survival rate:

Small cell lung CancerNon-small Lung Cancer
All stages6.5%24.9%
Localized27.2%63.1%
Regionalized16.4%35.4%
Distant2.9%6.9%

Why is the Life Expectancy so Nominal?

There are various factors that affect life expectancy of the lung cancer patient like age, the more early on the lung cancer is diagnosed the longer is their life expectancy, gender, generally, women have a better chance of recovering than men. The other issues are pre-existing health condition and also how people respond to their treatments. Treatments like chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy have other side effects like lung damage, heart damage, hypertension and so on. 

The most acute reason for the cause of lung cancer is smoking and it is also an accelerant and reduce life expectancy, even further. The basic thumb rule is the more early on it is detected the more successful is the treatment and the better is the survival. In stage zero, the cancer is in situ and it is tiny in size and does not spread through the lungs or deeper into the tissues. In stage one, cancer spreads to the underlying tissues, but not through the lymph node. Stage two is when the cancer cells spread through the lymph node and then stage three is when the cancer cells are spreading through the lymph nodes and other surrounding organs like the heart, trachea and so on. And the fourth stage is the stage of metastasis where the cancer cells spread all through the body. 

Conclusion

As there is no definitive cure for cancer the best cure is prevention. Smoking is something that is proven to both causes and accelerates the chances of lung cancer, not only that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, diet and regular checkups is the best way to prevent lung cancer in the first place. We have come a long way with both the treatment and the chances of survival which surely is the silver lining. 

References

  1. https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM197812212992506
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1556086415312016 

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