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Survival

Find out about survival for people with 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:

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

What affects survival

Your outcome depends on the type of lung cancer that you have and also the stage of the cancer when it was diagnosed. This means how big it is and whether it has spread.

Your general health and fitness might 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.

Unfortunately, lung cancer survival hasn't improved much in the last 40 years because many people are diagnosed at a later stage. Cancer Research UK is taking part in research to reduce the number of people diagnosed with lung cancer and to improve diagnosis and treatment.

1 year survival by stage for lung cancer

No UK-wide statistics are available for different stages of lung cancer or individual treatments. These statistics are from one area of England for people diagnosed between 2002 and 2006.

Stage 1

More than 80 out of 100 people (more than 80%) will survive their cancer for a year or more after diagnosis.

Stage 2

More than 60 out of 100 people (more than 60%) will survive their cancer for a year or more after diagnosis. 

Stage 3

More than 40 out of 100 people (more than 40%) will survive their cancer for a year or more after diagnosis. 

Stage 4

Less than 20 out of 100 people (less than 20%) will survive their cancer for a year of more after they are diagnosed.

Unknown stage

It is not possible to find the stage of the cancer for some people. This is sometimes because they are too ill to have tests.

In this situation, more than 20 out of 100 people (more than 20%) will survive their cancer for a year or more after they are diagnosed.

5 year survival by stage for lung cancer

These statistics are from one area of England for people diagnosed between 2002 and 2006.

Stage 1

Around 35 out of 100 people (around 35%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

Stage 2

More than 20 out of 100 people (more than 20%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis. 

Stage 3

Around 6 out of 100 people (around 6%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis. 

Stage 4

There are no statistics for stage 4 cancer because sadly many people don't live for more than 2 years after diagnosis.

Unknown stage

Around 6 out of 100 people (around 6%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after diagnosis.

About these statistics

The terms 1 year survival and 5 year survival don't mean that you will only live for 1 or 5 years. They relate to the number of people who are still alive 1 year or 5 years after their diagnosis of cancer.

Some people live much longer than 5 years.

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: 
07 Aug 2017
  • Lung cancer statistics
    Cancer Research UK 

  • 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

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