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Survival

Find out about survival for lung cancer.

Survival depends on many different factors. It depends on your individual condition, type of cancer, treatment and level of fitness. So no one can tell you exactly how long you will live. 

These are general statistics based on large groups of patients. Remember, they can’t tell you what will happen in your individual case.

Your doctor can give you more information about your own outlook (prognosis).

You can also talk about this with the Cancer Research UK nurses on freephone 0808 800 4040, from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

There are two main types of lung cancer:

  • small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
  • non small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

Survival by stage for non small cell lung cancer

There are no UK wide statistics for non small cell lung cancer survival. 

The following statistics come from the 2007 Lung Cancer Staging Project. This worldwide study collected data about lung cancer in more than 81,000 patients from 19 countries.

There is a range of statistics for each stage. This is because for some patients, the stage was based on the results of scans and tests, and for other patients, the stage was found during surgery.

Stage 1

Stage 1 non small cell lung cancer is divided into 2 stages, stage 1A and 1B.

For stage 1A, between 58 and 73 out of every 100 people (58% to 73%) will survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

For stage 1B, between 43 and 58 out of every 100 people (43% to 58%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Stage 1 lung cancer is small and contained inside the lung. It hasn’t spread to lymph nodes.

Stage 2

Stage 2 non small cell lung cancer is also divided into stage 2A and 2B.

For stage 2A, between 36 and 46 out of every 100 people (36% to 46%) will survive for 5 years or more with treatment.

For stage 2B, between 25 and 36 out of every 100 people (25% to 36%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Stage 2 lung cancer is smaller than 7cm and might have spread to lymph nodes. Or it is bigger than 7cm but has not spread to lymph nodes. It might have spread into surrounding tissues, but if it has, it is not in your lymph nodes.

Stage 3

Stage 3 non small cell lung cancer is divided into stage 3A and stage 3B.

For stage 3A, between 19 and 24 out of every 100 people (19% to 24%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

For stage 3B, between 7 and 9 out of every 100 people diagnosed (7% to 9%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Stage 3 lung cancer can be any size. It might have spread to the lymph nodes and it might also have grown into other parts of the lung or nearby structures in the chest.

Stage 4

For stage 4 non small cell lung cancer, between 2 and 13 out of every 100 people (2% to 13%) will survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Stage 4 lung cancer has spread to your other lung. Or it has spread to a distant part of your body such as the liver or bones.

About these statistics

It can seem illogical for stage 3B cancer to have 5 year survival rates from 7% to 9% and stage 4 from 2% to 13%. This is because the staging system only looks at the extent of the cancer. It doesn’t look at the specific types of cancer.

So the stage 4 group may include more people who have slowly growing cancers. Or it may include more people with cancer that respond very well to particular treatments compared to those in the stage 3 group. 

Survival by stage for small cell lung cancer

There are no UK wide statistics for small cell lung cancer survival. 

The following statistics come from the international 2007 Lung Cancer Staging Project. This study used the TNM staging system to give the following statistics about survival based on the stage found by scans and tests. The project included more than 8,000 patients with small cell lung cancer.

Stage 1

Stage 1 small cell lung cancer is divided into stage 1A and 1B.

For stage 1A, almost 40 out of every 100 people (almost 40%) will survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

For stage 1B, around 20 out of every 100 people (around 20%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.

Stage 1 lung cancer is small and is contained inside the lung. It hasn’t spread to lymph nodes.

Stage 2

Stage 2 small cell lung cancer is also divided into stage 2A and 2B.

For stage 2A, almost 40 out of every 100 people (almost 40%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. 

For stage 2B, almost 20 out of every 100 people (almost 20%) will survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

The survival rates for stage 2A seemed to be higher than for stage 1B. Researchers think this is because the study had very few patients in the stage 2A group. They suggest that those statistics may not be as reliable as the others.

Stage 2 lung cancer is smaller than 7cm and might have spread to lymph nodes. Or it is bigger than 7cm but has not spread to lymph nodes. It might have spread into surrounding tissues, but if it has, it is not in your lymph nodes.

Stage 3

Stage 3 is divided into stage 3A and stage 3B.

For stage 3A, almost 15 out of every 100 people (almost 15%) will survive for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed. 

For stage 3B, around 10 out of every 100 people (around 10%) will survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Stage 3 lung cancer can be any size. It might have spread to the lymph nodes and it might also have grown into other parts of the lung or nearby structures in the chest.

Stage 4

For stage 4 small cell lung cancer, only about 1 out of every 100 people (1%) will survive for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Stage 4 lung cancer has spread to your other lung. Or it has spread to a distant part of your body such as the liver or bones.

Survival for all lung cancer stages

Generally for everyone with lung cancer in England and Wales:

  • around 30 out of every 100 people (around 30%) will survive their cancer for 1 year or more after they are diagnosed
  • around 10 out of every 100 people (around 10%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis
  • about 5 out of every 100 people (about 5%) will survive their cancer for 10 years or more after they are diagnosed

What affects survival

Your outcome depends on the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed. This means how big it is and whether it has spread.

The type of lung cancer also affects your likely survival. 

Your general health and fitness may also affect survival. Doctors call this your performance status. A score of 0 means you are completely able to look after yourself. A score of 1 means you can do most things for yourself but need some help. The scores continue to go up, depending on how much help you need. People with a higher score may have a poorer outlook. 

About these statistics

The term 5 year survival doesn't mean you will only live for 5 years. It relates to the number of people who live 5 years or more after their diagnosis of cancer.

Many people live much longer than 5 years 

These statistics are taken from various sources. They include the opinions and experience of the experts who check Cancer Research UK's patient information.

Statistics are averages based on large numbers of patients. They can’t predict exactly what will happen to you. No two patients are exactly alike and response to treatment also varies from one person to another.

For more in-depth information about survival and lung cancer

Last reviewed: 
06 Jul 2016
  • Lung Cancer Staging Project: Proposals for the Revision of the TNM Stage Groupings in the Forthcoming (Seventh) Edition of the TNM Classification of Malignant Tumours
    P Goldstraw (and others)
    Journal of Thoracic Oncology August 2007 2 (8) 706-714

  • Lung cancer statistics
    Cancer Research UK 

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