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Woman who is a lung cancer survivor.

The lung cancer survival rate has been gradually improving over the last few decades. With significant advancements in treatment options, the survival rates are even more favorable for patients who are diagnosed early and patients who are under 50 years old at the time of their diagnosis. Additionally, patients with non-small cell lung cancer tend to have more favorable survival rates, as do patients who are able to complete a multimodal course of treatment.

When you consider the overall lung cancer survival rate, it’s important to keep several things in mind. For instance:

  • Survival rates don’t take into account the way that each patient responds to treatment. At best, they’re general statistics—not precise, individualized predictions.
  • Survival rates are often based on patients who were diagnosed with lung cancer five to 10 years ago. Because treatments have recently become more advanced, the true survival rate may be higher for patients who have been diagnosed in recent years.
  • Survival rates are often measured with very specific benchmarks – including one-year survival, three-year survival and five-year survival. However, these terms don’t mean that the patients only survived for the noted amount of time; patients who achieve one-year survival often go on to live for many more years.

How fast does lung cancer spread?

It’s impossible to provide a definite answer to this question, since the speed at which cancer spreads will depend on factors such as the type of malignancy present, the location of the tumors and the stage to which the cancer has already progressed. With that being said, lung cancer tends to spread relatively early, with some types of lung cancer spreading especially quickly.

For example, when compared to non-small cell lung cancer, small cell lung cancer typically spreads faster. In fact, approximately 70% of small cell lung cancer cases will have already begun spreading by the time they’re diagnosed. With that being said, certain types of non-small cell lung cancer—such as large cell undifferentiated carcinoma and large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma—can also spread quite quickly.

Can lung cancer go away on its own?

Although it’s technically possible for lung cancer to go away on its own, it’s incredibly rare for that to happen. Almost every case of lung cancer requires treatment, which might include a combination of:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Clinical trials
  • Immunotherapy
  • Photodynamic therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery

Lung cancer treatment plans will vary from one patient to another based on factors such as the type of lung cancer present, the stage it’s at and where it’s located in the body. Providers will also consider the patient’s age, overall health and personal preferences when determining how to approach treatment.

What is the success rate of lung cancer treatments?

Because there are so many different types of lung cancer treatment available, it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact answer to this question. Patients can turn to their physicians for more accurate estimates based on the type of lung cancer they have and how far it’s progressed.

With that being said, lung cancer treatment is generally more successful when:

  • The patient has non-small cell lung cancer, rather than small cell lung cancer
  • The patient was under 50 years old when he or she was diagnosed
  • The patient was diagnosed while the cancer was still in its early stages

With regard to non-small cell lung cancer, which is the most common type of lung cancer, treatment often involves surgery to remove either a portion of the affected lung or the entire lung. Nearby lymph nodes and tissues might also be extracted during the procedure. However, if the malignancy is more widespread or the patient isn’t healthy enough for surgery, then the best treatment approach might involve a combination of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Moffitt’s approach to lung cancer treatment

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we’re dedicated to improving the lung cancer survival rate. Our research teams develop and test the newest lung cancer treatments, and we make them available to our patients through our clinical trial program. Because of these efforts, the National Cancer Institute has named us a Comprehensive Cancer Center—the only such center based in Florida. What’s more, we take an individualized, multispecialty approach to treatment, which has been repeatedly found to help patients improve their chances at survival and enjoy a higher quality of life.

Medically reviewed by Dr. Jacques Fontaine, thoracic surgeon, Thoracic Oncology Program

If you have questions about the lung cancer survival rate, call 1-888-663-3488, or use our new patient registration form to schedule an appointment with one of our oncologists specializing in lung cancer. We’re proud to offer the fastest turnaround rate among cancer hospitals across the country—when you reach out to us, we’ll connect you to a cancer expert as soon as possible.