Prognosis of Lung Cancer

By  , Expert Content
May 24, 2012

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Prognosis of a cancer, or any other disease, indicates the chance of cure or recurrence (return) of the disease after treatment. When a patient has cancer, it is important to know the prognosis as it helps them understand the possible outcome what the future holds and thus, manage the disease and live better with it. It also allows for planning of important issues like finances, life style changes.

Some factors which are known to affect prognosis (chances of cure and risk for recurrence) of lung cancer include:

  • Size of the tumour.
  • Type of tumour (non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer).
  • Stage of cancer (extent of spread to regional lymph nodes, and other parts of the body).
  • Grade of tumour (how abnormal or malignant the cancer cells appear and how quickly the cells grow and spread).
  • Factors such as age, general health, and response to treatment.

When discussing the prognosis of lung cancer, your doctor will consider the five-year survival rate. Survival rates of a cancer indicate the proportion of people with a certain type and stage of cancer, living for a specific period of time after their diagnosis.

The five-year survival rate indicates the percentage of people with the disease, who are still alive five years after diagnosis (factors such as signs or symptoms of cancer, presence or absence of disease, or treatment are not considered). The prognosis is said to be good if the five-year survival rate is good and the tumour is likely to respond to treatment. But if the cancer is going to be difficult to treat and control, prognosis is considered to be poor or unfavourable.

Prognosis of Lung cancer

Small cell lung cancer: Prognosis of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is poor. It is one of the most aggressive types of lung cancers, with a median survival time of about two to four months after diagnosis, if left untreated. However, response to treatment (radiation therapy and chemotherapy) is good. As the cancer is usually disseminated at the time of diagnosis, treatment approaches such as surgical removal or localised radiation therapy are not much effective in treating this type of lung cancer. Use of chemotherapy (alone or in combination with other methods) improves survival by four to five folds. But even with treatment, only about 5-10% patients are still alive five years after diagnosis.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): Prognosis of NSCLC depends on the stage (extent of spread) of the tumour at the time of diagnosis. Response to treatment is not good except in smallest of cancers that can be surgically removed. In the advanced stage of the disease, chemotherapy has modest efficacy and rates of overall survival are poor.



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