How Long Does a Person Have to Live with Stage 4 Lung Cancer?

Reviewed on 7/28/2021

Stage 4 lung cancer usually has a poor prognosis. Life expectancy for lung cancer is given as five-year survival rates, or how many people will be alive five years after diagnosis. Five-year survival rates for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer are 6%, while five-year survival rates for metastatic small cell lung cancer are 3%.
Stage 4 lung cancer usually has a poor prognosis. Life expectancy for lung cancer is given as five-year survival rates, or how many people will be alive five years after diagnosis. Five-year survival rates for metastatic non-small cell lung cancer are 6%, while five-year survival rates for metastatic small cell lung cancer are 3%.

Stage 4 lung cancer (also called metastatic lung cancer) is lung cancer that has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body outside the lungs, such as the brain, bones, and liver

Life expectancy for lung cancer is often expressed in 5-year survival rates, that is, how many people will be alive 5 years after diagnosis. Stage 4 lung cancer usually has a poor prognosis. 

One study found that depending on the stage of the metastases (spread) the average survival time following diagnosis of stage 4 lung cancer ranged from 6.3 months to 11.4 months. 

There are a number of factors that can impact life expectancy with stage 4 lung cancer. Factors associated with a less favorable outcome include:

  • Smoking
    • Some studies have shown that some smokers with metastatic lung cancer who quit prior to starting chemotherapy increased life expectancy by as much as 6 months 
  • Older age
  • How aggressive the cancer is 
  • Location of the cancer
  • Being male
  • Other underlying health conditions
  • Congestive heart failure and cerebrovascular diseases (such as stroke,
  • aneurysm, or vascular malformation) have a significant impact on survival time

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
  • Wheezing
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Weakness
  • 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 
  • Bone pain, such as in the back or hips
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice) from cancer spread to the liver

What Is the Treatment for Stage 4 Lung Cancer?

Stage 4 lung cancers are widespread and very hard to treat and cure. Any of the treatments listed below may help patients live longer, but they are unlikely to cure the disease at this late stage. 

Treatment for lung cancer depends on the stage, and treatments for stage 4 lung cancer may include:

  • Surgery
    • Lobectomy or sleeve resection or removal of the entire lung (pneumonectomy) 
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
  • Laser therapy
  • Adjuvant chemotherapy 
  • Radiation therapy
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) 
  • Lymph node removal
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Immunotherapy 
  • Participation in clinical trials

SLIDESHOW

Lung Cancer: Early Signs, Symptoms, Stages See Slideshow

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Reviewed on 7/28/2021
References
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer.html

https://www.wjgnet.com/1949-8470/full/v9/i6/269.htm

https://www.jcancer.org/v10p3021.htm

https://www.esmoopen.com/article/S2059-7029(20)32325-5/fulltext

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1806-37132018000500436&tlng=en

https://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/24/7/1079