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Prognosis of lung cancer

In 2014, there were an estimated 527,228 people living with lung and bronchus cancer in the United States. The earlier lung and bronchus cancer is caught, the better chance a person has of surviving five years after being diagnosed. 15.7% are diagnosed at the local stage and the 5-year survival for localized lung and bronchus cancer is 55.2%.  Lung and bronchus cancer is the first leading cause of cancer death in the United States and the number of deaths is highest among people aged 65-74. Death rates have been falling on average 2.5% each year over 2005-2014 (33).

Five year survival is up to 65 % among operated patients with early discovery of non-small cell lung cancer, while long-term survival is 1% in those with metastasis.

Without surgical intervention, the prognosis is not significantly different for small cell and non-small cell lung carcinoma.

For small cell lung cancer, the long term survival in limited stage disease is 15 % and 0–1 % in extensive stage disease. (28)



Five-year relative survival for patients with lung cancer, in percent, during the diagnosis period 1974–2013.

Source: Cancer Registry of Norway


Prognostic factors

For the prognosis of lung cancer, prognostic factors and the stage of the cancer at the time of diagnosis are more significant than the kind of treatment given.

Poor prognostic factors

  • WHO/ECOG status ≥ 2
  • Greatest tumor diameter ≥ 9 cm
  • Weight loss > 5–10% in the last 3 months

Good prognostic factors

  • WHO/ECOG status < 2
  • Greatest tumor diameter < 9 cm
  • Weight loss < 5–10% in the last 3 months

WHO performance status

  • 0: Asymptomatic (Fully active, able to carry on all predisease activities without restriction.)
  • 1: Symptomatic but completely ambulatory (Restricted in physically strenuous activity but ambulatory and able to carry out work of a light or sedentary nature. For example, light housework, office work)
  • 2: Symptomatic, <50% in bed during the day (Ambulatory and capable of all self care but unable to carry out any work activities. Up and about more than 50% of waking hours)
  • 3: Symptomatic, >50% in bed, but not bedbound (Capable of only limited self-care, confined to bed or chair 50% or more of waking hours)
  • 4: Bedbound (Completely disabled. Cannot carry on any self-care. Totally confined to bed or chair)
  • 5: Death

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