What are the stages of lung cancer?

Man in hospital with a pain

Staging means finding out how big the cancer is and if it has spread to other parts of your body. Staging will help your doctor to plan the best treatment for you.

Stage 1: The cancer is inside 1 lung (localised) and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes.

Stage 2: The cancer can be different sizes. It may have spread to nearby lymph nodes, other parts of the lung, or areas just outside the lung.

Stage 3: The cancer can be any size and may or may not have spread to lymph nodes and may also be growing into other parts of the lung, airway or surrounding areas outside the lung. It may have grown to areas close to the lung or to areas further from the lung, such as the foodpipe (oesophagus), the heart or the chest area. But it has not spread to other parts of the body.

Stage 4: The cancer has spread to other parts of your body such as the liver, bones or the brain. This can also be called metastatic (advanced) cancer.

Small cell lung cancer

Doctors may divide small cell lung cancers into two stages:

  • Limited stage – the cancer cells can be seen in one lung and in nearby lymph nodes.
  • Extensive stage – the cancer has spread outside the lung, to the chest area or to other parts of the body


Staging can be hard to understand, so ask your doctor and nurse for more information if you need it.

For more information

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