Understanding the Stages of Lung Cancer

By now, you've either been told you MAY have lung cancer or you have already had the tests and biopsy and know for sure. As a mentor and advocate, the first thing I tell people is -- DON'T PANIC OR FREAK OUT. Yes, these are the worst words you want to hear but remember it is 2017. Medical advancement in cancer has increased by leaps and bounds. The stages of lung cancer are:

  • Stage 1: Cancer is found in the lung, but it has not spread outside the lung.
  • Stage 2: Cancer is found in the lung and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage 3: Cancer is in the lung and lymph nodes in the middle of the chest.
  • Stage 3A: Cancer is found in lymph nodes, but only on the same side of the chest where cancer first started growing.
  • Stage 3B: Cancer has spread to lymph nodes on the opposite side of the chest or to lymph nodes above the collarbone.
  • Stage 4: Cancer has spread to both lungs, into the area around the lungs, or to distant organs.1

Remember every cancer is unique

I'm sure by now you have already started thinking about life expectancy, treatments, and can this be "cured." The important thing to remember is EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT. EVERY CANCER IS DIFFERENT. Did you read those last 6 words? Say them out loud. Repeat those words out loud. Just because your cousin's neighbor's wife had the same stage cancer as you may have, doesn't mean you will have the same outcome.

I have been a cancer survivor for 3 years and 7 months. I was stage III when I was diagnosed. I have had surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy. And guess what -- I also have bladder cancer which included its own surgery and chemo. And, I'm still here!!! I'm still kicking and screaming.

What I've learned so far

What have I learned from my journey? No one can determine how you will react to various treatments. Everyone responds differently. Every person's experience is different. You may have the same stage, same place, same size tumors as your neighbor BUT no one can define what your experience will be.

I have met people who were told they had 6 months to live and that was 10 years ago. Just remember: this will be the most difficult thing you have ever done in your life but you can do it!! Be open and honest with your care team. This is another chapter in your life and NO one can tell you it's the final chapter.

Your medical team must know what stage your cancer is to determine what treatment methods may or may not work for you. Be smart and know what each stage means but don't let it define who you are and how you fight -- you are a warrior.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on January 28, 2020, Jennifer Toth passed away. Jennifer was a passionate advocate for the Lung Cancer community. She will be deeply missed.

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