When someone is diagnosed with lung cancer, he or she is told what stage (from 1-4) the cancer is, which indicates the degree to which it has spread beyond the initial lung nodule, or a black spot on the lung. A diagnosis of stage 3 or 4 lung cancer means that that the cancer has spread outside of the localized area, thoracic surgeon Sudish Murthy, MD, PhD, of Cleveland Clinic’s Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute explains in this whiteboard presentation.
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The differences between stage 3 and 4 lung cancer
With stage 3, the lung cancer has spread not only to the lymph nodes near the cancerous nodule but also to lymph nodes along the main windpipe in the center of the chest. Like other types of lung cancer, stage 4 begins as a nodule in the lung, but because of the very high blood flow to the lung, this cancer spreads outside of the chest to other organs—most commonly the liver, bones or brain.
Both stage 3 and 4 lung cancer treatments rely less on surgery and more on a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.