Stages of Bronchogenic Carcinoma (Lung Cancer)

Bronchogenic carcinoma, commonly called "lung cancer," cancer", as well as all the other types of cancers, are classified into different staging systems, which help doctors and specialists ascertain their evolutive stages. The stage of a cancer indicates the size of the cancer and whether, or how much it has spread into the patient's body. The staging also dictates what treatment options will be offered to the patient. The bronchogenic carcinoma staging is particularly important because this cancer is incurable if detected in the later stages of its evolution. Lung cancer can be classified into two staging system, the "number system" and the "TNM system." Here is a rundown of lung cancer's stages in both systems.

Bronchogenic carcinoma staging: The TNM system and the Number system

The TNM system stands for Tumor, Node and Metastases. This staging system takes into account the position and the size of the tumor (T), if the cancer has spread to the lymph nodes (N) or not and if the cancer has spread to other areas of the patient's body, creating a second cancer, also called metastases (M). Each factor is attributed a number describing its severity. For example, if the patient's lung cancer is small (T0), has not yet spread to the lymph node (N0) and hasn't created metastases (M0) the cancer will be classified as T0N0M0. On the other hand, if the cancer is large (T3), has spread to the patient's lymph nodes (N1) and has created metastases (M1) it will be classified as T3M1N1.

Bronchogenic carcinoma staging can also be classified using a number system, which divides the cancer into four groups, or "stages":

Stage 1

The cancer is located in one lung only (it is "localized") and is relatively small. Stage 1 can be broken down into two sub-stages:

Stage 1a

The cancer is smaller than 3 cm.

Stage 1b

The cancer's size is between 3 and 5 cm, and it has spread to the lung's airway or to its membrane, called the "pleura."

Stage 2

The cancer is large and has spread to both lungs and may have spread to the lymph nodes. Stage 2 can also be subdivided into two smaller categories:

Stage 2a

The cancer is between 5 and 7 cm.

Stage 2b

The cancer is between 5 and 7 cm and has spread to the lymph nodes.

Stage 3

The cancer is large, has spread to both lungs and has also spread to the lymph nodes, meaning it has spread from the site of the initial tumor. It is then called a "locally advanced" cancer. Here are Stage 3's subdivisions:

Stage 3a

The cancer's size is bigger than 7 cm, and it has spread to the lymph nodes close to the lung.

Stage 3b

The cancer is bigger than 7 cm and has spread to lymph nodes far from the lungs.

Stage 4

The cancer is larger, affects both lungs and the lymph nodes and has spread to other parts of the system, creating a second cancer of metastases. It is called a "metastatic cancer."

When bronchogenic carcinoma is detected in its early stages, mainly T0N0M0 and stage 1 and stage 2, it has a good survival rate (80%). Unfortunately, in almost all cases, lung cancer detected late in its evolution, will be fatal. This is why staging is such an important part of oncology.