Stage 4 lung cancer – non small cell lung cancer is also known as metastatic lung cancer. It is the most advanced stage of lung cancer. The alarming fact is that it is seen that almost 40 % of the people diagnosed as suffering from lung cancer are already found to be suffering from stage 4 lung cancers. So far there is no cure for this stage of cancer but various treatment options are available which improve the quality of living for a patient suffering from stage 4 lung cancer.
This stage includes lung cancers which have spread from the lung to any other part of the body or to the other lung. To detect the stage of lung cancer you may be suffering from, researchers and doctors most popularly use the TNM classification. T stands for tumour, N for lymph nodes involved and M for metastasis. Stage 4 lung cancer is defined as T (any), N (any) and M 1 which means that a tumour of any size with or without involvement of lymph nodes, which has spread to or metastasized to another lobe of the lung or to distant parts of the body.
If you are suffering from lung cancer stage 4 you may complain of cough of a long standing duration which is not relieved by regular treatment, haemoptysis which means blood in sputum, difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, hoarseness, pain in the chest or neck or arm, wheezing and repeated episodes of pneumonia and bronchitis. Once the tumour has spread to other parts of the body, you may complain of symptoms like pain and discomfort in the local parts. If the tumour has spread to ribs, spine, hips or back, you may complain of pain in the back or hips. In some cases the tumour may press onto the oesophagus and you may complain of symptoms like difficulty in swallowing or pain on swallowing. The tumour may spread to the brain, following which you may present with symptoms like headaches, weakness on one side of the body or face, blurring of vision or seizures. You may complain of general symptoms like weight loss, fatigue, lethargy and loss of appetite.
Surgery is not an option in the case of patients suffering from stage 4 lung cancer. As the tumour has spread to many sites, the case becomes inoperable and it is difficult to remove all the tumour tissue from various locations. Chemotherapy is an option available for those who are able to tolerate it, and it is known to improve the survival rate. Radiation therapy is a palliative therapy available. It is helpful to those people suffering from metastasis to the bone, bleeding from the lungs, brain metastasis that is causing symptoms like headaches or weakness.
The treatment options that are best for you will be decided by your doctor, based on the risks and benefits of treatment. The overall 5 year survival rate for lung cancer stage 4 is less than 10 %. The median survival time which is the time at which 50 % of the patients are alive and 50% have passed away is about 8 months.
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