What Is Stage 4 Lung Cancer?

Cigarettes, which are closely associated with lung cancer.
A computed tomography (CT) scan can reveal the extent of a patient's lung cancer.
A human respiratory system.
Stage 4 lung cancer can be treated to prolong life, but is typically incurable.
Article Details
  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Stage 4 lung cancer means cancer of the lung has spread to other parts of the body. When a person has this stage of lung cancer, for example, it may have spread to his liver or even to his brain. In general, the prognosis for a lung cancer patient is typically dependent on the stage the cancer has reached, so at stage 4, it is usually hard to treat and the life expectancy may be short. It is important for people to keep in mind, however, that each patient’s experience may be different.

When a person has stage 4 lung cancer, his cancer has spread from the lungs to other parts of the body. It may have spread to the patient’s lymph nodes as well as to the fluid that surrounds his lungs or heart. At this stage, the cancer may also have reached the patient’s brain, kidneys, bones, or other parts of the body.

Lung cancer, like other forms of cancer, is most easily treated at an earlier stage. Unfortunately, however, many people do not realize they have lung cancer until they reach a later stage. The long-term prognosis for lung cancer patients who have reached this stage isn’t very good. Five-year survival rates are low, and many people survive only months after reaching this stage. This can vary, however, based on the unique state of the patient’s health as well as a range of other factors.

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Among the many things that may affect a patient’s life expectancy are the age and gender of the patient, and how far the cancer has spread. Generally speaking, a younger patient with stage 4 lung cancer is likely to live longer than an older person. The type of lung cancer may influence the patient’s life expectancy, and some types are more aggressive than others. Likewise, lung cancer that has only spread to one other part of the body may allow for a longer life expectancy than cancer that has spread widely. Additionally, women tend to live longer after a diagnosis than men.

It is important to note that cancer that has reached stage 4 is usually incurable. This means that healthcare professionals are typically unable to rid the patient of the cancer entirely. It can be treated, however, and often the focus is on prolonging the patient’s life and helping him to remain comfortable.

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Logicfest
Post 2

@Vincenzo -- That is unfortunate, but it can also be seen as a blessing. Perhaps an alternative treatment will save someone's life and observing that patient's progress can help other people survive cancer. Even if the patient dies, doctors can still get a good handle on how effective the treatment is.

That may sound harsh, but I don't mean it to be. Cancer is nasty stuff, and every opportunity to learn more about it and figure out how to fight it should be viewed as a blessing of sorts.

Vincenzo
Post 1

Darn right state 4 lung cancer is almost impossible to treat. When things get that bad, you're talking about hospice care and alternative treatments.

What is really unfortunate is that a lot of what we know about the effectiveness of various alternative treatments comes from observing patients with stage 4 cancer that had nothing to lose by trying something new.

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