When you get the news that you have stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer, or NSCLC, your doctor will want to discuss treatment options. You may also be wondering about survival rates for this stage of cancer. Keep in mind that survival rates are estimates based on the outcomes of large groups of people with a particular disease. They can’t predict what will happen in your own case. However, understanding these rates can help you and your family make decisions about how to proceed with your care.
Survival rates for stage 4 NSCLC vary, depending on a number of factors. For example, your age and general health affect how well you respond to treatment. The type of cancer and tumor location can also have a big effect on your outlook. In addition, if your cancer has specific genetic mutations, you may be eligible for new treatments that can improve your chances of survival.
Generally, the lower your cancer is in stage when you’re diagnosed, the better your chances of survival. For instance, if your NSCLC is in stage 1A, and hasn’t spread to nearby lymph nodes, about 40% of people will live for at least two years after diagnosis. If your cancer is in stage 1B, and hasn’t spread to adjacent tissues, about 27% of people will live for at least two years.
If your NSCLC has spread to distant parts of the body, as is often the case with stage 4 NSCLC, survival rates are much lower. Typically, less than 10% of people with stage 4 NSCLC survive for at least five years after diagnosis.
The most common treatment for stage 4 NSCLC is chemotherapy. The goal of chemotherapy is to shrink tumors and slow the growth of cancer cells, helping you feel better and possibly living longer. You may receive chemotherapy drugs alone or in combination with other treatments, including radiation therapy and immunotherapy.
Some people with stage 4 NSCLC are eligible for experimental treatments that have shown promise in clinical trials. These may include immunotherapy or drugs that target specific gene changes in cancer cells, called targeted therapies. Keep in mind that these therapies may not cure your cancer, and they aren’t available to everyone with stage 4 NSCLC.
While it’s important to know the survival rate for stage 4 NSCLC, it’s even more important to remember that no two people are the same. You and your doctor will discuss how these statistics apply to you and your unique situation. They can also suggest additional resources that can help you plan your care and make decisions about treatment options. You may also want to talk with a palliative care specialist to learn more about comfort and symptom management. This specialist can help you find services in your community and support groups. They can also recommend clinical trials that might be right for you. If you decide to join a trial, it’s important to tell your healthcare team about any symptoms that arise during the process so they can monitor you closely for signs of complications.