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Lung cancers are most often staged according to the TNM system from the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC). Factoring in the tumor’s size and whether or not it has spread (metastasized) beyond the lung, the cancer is staged on a scale from 0 to 4, with 4 being the most advanced. Stage 4 lung cancer describes cancer that has metastasized to more than one area of the body, such as the other lung, the brain or the liver. It is also referred to as metastatic lung cancer.

Types of stage 4 lung cancer

The two main types of lung cancer are non-small cell and small cell. Non-small cell lung cancer—the most common type—appears larger under a microscope than small cell lung cancer and generally has a more positive prognosis than its counterpart.

Many individuals with either type of lung cancer are first diagnosed when the condition has already progressed to stage 4. The National Cancer Institute estimates that about 40 percent of patients with non-small cell lung cancer are diagnosed with stage 4 disease, and 66 percent of patients with small cell lung cancer are also diagnosed at this stage.

Symptoms of stage 4 lung cancer

If lung cancer has spread to other areas of the body, multiple symptoms may be present, including:

  • Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • A sensation of pain in the bones
  • Headaches
  • Swollen lymph nodes around the neck or collarbone
  • Nervous system problems such as balance issues, seizures, dizziness, muscle weakness or numbness in the arms or legs

These symptoms may be combined with the symptoms of earlier stage lung cancers, which can include persistent coughing, chest pain, shortness of breath, voice hoarseness and coughing up blood. Symptoms may also vary according to where in the body the lung cancer has spread. For example, an individual with brain metastasis is more likely to experience headaches and neurological problems, while liver metastasis often results in jaundice.

Stage 4 lung cancer treatment at Moffitt

Treating stage 4 lung cancer requires the expertise of a multispecialty team. That’s why so many individuals with late-stage cancers choose Moffitt Cancer Center for their care. Patients in our Thoracic Oncology Program benefit from the combined expertise of thoracic surgeons, pulmonologists, oncologists and other experts who focus exclusively on lung malignancies. Our treatment teams also collaborate with supportive care specialists who help patients navigate the unique physical and emotional challenges that stage 4 lung cancer can bring. The renowned expertise of Moffitt’s professionals, combined with our leading-edge treatments and robust clinical trial program, translates to better outcomes, more good days and enhanced quality of life for our patients.

To speak with a Moffitt oncologist about your stage 4 lung cancer treatment options, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. Moffitt is a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.