stage 4 lung cancer life expectancy without treatment

Stage 4 Lung Cancer :

Stage 4 lung cancer means that your cancer has spread from your lung to other parts of your body. Once the cancer spreads it’s hard to cure. Chemotherapy and other treatments can slow your disease and help you live longer, but they probably won’t cure you.

You might have months or years to live after a stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis. Or, you could have only weeks. Your doctor will tell you what to expect based on the results of your tests.

At some point, your doctor might tell you that you’ve reached the final stages of lung cancer. Treatment will no longer help you at this point.

The goal at this stage is to ease your pain and other symptoms to help keep you comfortable.

You’ll also need emotional support. It can be challenging to learn you have stage 4 lung cancer, but your healthcare team and other medical professionals can help you and your family members cope.

Whether it’s you or a loved one who is facing the final stages of lung cancer, knowing what to expect can help you navigate the process and get the support you need.

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What Are Symptoms of Stage 4 Lung Cancer?

Early in the disease, people with lung cancer may not have symptoms. When the symptoms occur, they may include:

    Persistent or worsening cough

    Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum

    Chest pain that may be worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing

    Shortness of breath

    Breathing problems



    Loss of appetite

    Unexplained weight loss



    Respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or recur

Symptoms of stage 4 lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body may include:

    Swollen lymph nodes such as those in the neck or above the collarbone

    Nervous system effects from lung cancer that has metastasized to the brain


        Weakness or numbness of extremities


        Problems with balance


    Bone pain, such as in the back or hips

    Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) from cancer spread to the liver.



Physical Exam

A physical exam will look for signs of wheezing, shortness of breath, cough, pain and other possible signs of lung cancer. Depending on the advancement of the cancer, other early signs of lung cancer symptoms may include a lack of sweating, dilated neck veins, face swelling, excessively constricted pupils, and other signs. The physical exam will also include the patient’s history of smoking and a chest X-ray.

Sputum Cytology Exam

A sputum cytology exam involves a microscopic examination of a patient’s mucus (sputum).

Spiral CT Exam

This method of CT scanning builds a detailed image of the body’s internal workings. Inside a spiral CT machine, detailed images are taken of the relevant parts of the patient’s body. Those images are then linked to an X-ray machine to create 3D images of the patient’s internal organs. These images may reveal potentially cancerous tumors.

A study by researchers suggested that people aged 55 to 74 years old who had smoked at least one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 or more years may benefit from a spiral CT study of the lungs.

Lung Cancer Biopsy:

In general, lung biopsies are obtained by either needle biopsy, a lung bronchoscopy technique, or by surgical removal of tissue.

As stated previously, a tissue sample taken from the patient’s suspected cancer is usually the best method to establish a definitive lung cancer diagnosis. In general, lung biopsies are obtained by either needle biopsy, a lung bronchoscopy technique, or by surgical removal of tissue. Many other tests may be done to get more information about the cancer’s spread.

See the following slides for types of lung cancer and lung cancer stages, including stage IV lung cancer.

Lung Cancer Survival Rates:

This disease is difficult to detect in its early stages, and treatments for late-stage lung cancer provide a poor prognosis. Survival rates vary depending on the cancer type. According to the American Cancer Society, over five years the average survival rate is 24% across all stages of non-small cell lung cancer. The same average for small-cell lung cancer is 6%. The 5-year survival rate for both types is higher if diagnosed and treated while the cancers are in the localized or regional SEER stages; however, distant stage lung cancer stages are worse.

stage 4 lung cancer life expectancy without treatment

stage 4 lung cancer life expectancy without treatment

Mayo Clinic