Cancer is classified into stages which are used to describe the size and growth of cancer in the body. Oncologists consider these stages when determining the prognosis and the treatment options for people with cancer, including lung cancer.
Dr. Abraham Chachoua, the Jay and Isabel Fine Professor of Oncology at NYU Langone Medical Center's Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center, explains that the different stages of cancer apply to non-small cell type lung cancers. Staging non-small cell lung cancer depends on where the tumor is, how big the tumor is, whether the tumor has spread to the lymph nodes or beyond the lymph nodes, and where the lymph nodes are.
There are five stages of lung cancer (I, II, IIIA, IIIB, and IV). Stages I-IIIA are generally treated using surgical procedures whereas stages IIIB and IV are generally treated with non-surgical procedures including chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
Some doctors do not use the numbered stages, but prefer a staging classification called the TNM System. TNM stands for Tumor, Nodes (lymph nodes), and Metastasis. These two ways to name the stages really are referring to the same stages but in a different way and they are equally used to determine the prognosis of the cancer patient.