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What is staging and why is it important?

After an NSCLC diagnosis, one of the first steps doctors will take is to try to determine the size of the cancer and areas of the body where it is located. This is called staging. The stage of NSCLC mainly describes the size of the tumor and if it has spread to other areas of the body. The lower the stage number, the less advanced the cancer is.

There are different staging systems for different cancers, but the most common is the numbered cancer staging system that identifies 5 possible cancer stages:

Stage 0

Cancer cells are located in the lining of the airways and have not spread.

Stage 1

The cancer is still small and has not spread outside the lungs or to the lymph nodes.*

Stage 2

The cancer may be larger than in stage 1 or may have spread to the lymph nodes* near where the cancer started.

Stage 3

The cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes* farther away from where it started within the chest. The cancer has not spread to other parts of the body and may be larger than those in stage 2. It is sometimes referred to as locally advanced NSCLC.

Stage 4

The most advanced form of cancer. In stage 4 cancer, the disease is called metastatic NSCLC, which means that the cancer has spread to other organs such as the other lung, brain, liver, or to other parts of the body.

*Lymph nodes are like filters that remove germs. They contain immune cells that can help fight infection.

Learn more about the types of doctors who treat advanced NSCLC and some of the treatment options.

Treating advanced NSCLC