How Long Can You Live with Stage 3 Lung Cancer?

When it comes to determining how long one can live with stage 3 lung cancer, the answer isn’t always so simple. Roughly one-third of people diagnosed with lung cancer are diagnosed during stage III (3) and there are varying survival rates that are dependent on factors such as a patient’s age, gender, treatment, and cancer type. Stage 3 is considered an advanced stage of lung cancer as the tumors have spread to nearby tissues, organs, and lymph nodes. However, stage 3 lung cancer is treatable and a patient’s prognosis, including survival rates and life expectancy, can remain promising during the third stage of lung cancer.

Stage III Life Expectancy According to Cancer Type

Lung cancer is typically broken into two main categories: non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer. The four stages of lung cancer utilize the TNM staging system when making a diagnosis. The TNM system is broken down into three parts:

  • T: Size and extent of the primary tumor
  • N: Metastasis of primary tumor to lymph nodes
  • M: Metastasis of primary tumor to distant parts of the body
TNM Stage 5-Year Average Survival Rate
Stage 1 60%
Stage 2 44%
Stage 3 19.75%
Stage 4 4.7%

Stage 3 lung cancer offers a promising outlook despite being considered advanced like the life expectancies of stage 4 lung cancer. When compared to earlier stages of lung cancer, however, stage 3 can seem daunting, yet there is hope. There are several variables that can influence life expectancies such as age and cancer type.

Stage 3 Lung Cancer Survival Rate by Age

Most survival rates are classified by a 5-year relative survival rate. The Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) in the US track survival rates based on the spread of cancer. The SEER database groups cancers into:

  • Localized: Cancer has not spread outside the lung
  • Regional: Cancer has spread to nearby structures or lymph nodes
  • Distant: Cancer has spread to distant body parts

There are many factors that influence lung cancer life expectancy. For instance, age can drastically affect survival rates. The average life expectancy for stage 3 lung cancer generally tends to decrease the older a patient is. Age tends to influence survival rates as a patient’s immune system becomes less responsive and they are generally in poorer health.

5-Year Relative Survival Rate by Age Group
SEER Stage Under 50 Ages 50-64 65 and Over
Localized 83.7% 67.4% 54.6%
Regional 47.7% 36.6% 28.3%
Distant 11% 7% 4.7%
Unstaged 32.1% 15.4% 6%

Small Cell Lung Cancer Stage III Life Expectancy

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is one of two types of lung cancer. SCLC earns its name by appearing small and round under a microscope. Although smaller, SCLC metastasizes more quickly and aggressively than the other form of lung cancer. SCLC can be staged in two ways, limited and extensive. Limited implies that tumors are developing on one side of the chest, whereas extensive indicates the tumors have extended to other parts of the body.

SEER Stage 5-Year Relative SCLC Survival Rate
Localized 29%
Regional 18%
Distant 3%
All SEER Stages Combined 7%

Stage III Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Life Expectancy

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common form of lung cancer in the US, making up over 84 percent of cases. Although this type of lung cancer makes up more cases compared to SCLC, NSCLC metastasized slower. There are three substages of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. These three subtypes are characterized by the way they appear under a microscope.

SEER Stage 5-Year Relative NSCLC Survival Rate
Localized 64%
Regional 37%
Distant 8%
All SEER Stages Combined 26%

Adenocarcinoma Stage III Life Expectancy

Adenocarcinoma is a subtype of NSCLC and some other cancers. A tumor is classified as adenocarcinoma if cancer develops in mucus-secreting glands in an organ, muscle, or tissue. Lung adenocarcinoma is the most common type, accounting for about 30 percent of all lung cancers.

SEER Stage 5-Year Relative Adenocarcinoma Survival Rate
Localized 77.5%
Regional 30%
Distant 5%
All SEER Stages Combined 37.5%

Stage 3 Lung Cancer Life Expectancy with Treatment

Stage 3 lung cancer is not a death sentence. Patients experiencing stage 3 lung cancer symptoms may choose to undergo treatment. Treatment can improve a patient’s comfort as well as their life expectancy. There are several options for treatment during stage 3 lung cancer. Typically, the tumor is initially removed through surgery. Once removed or if unable to remove the tumor, a patient will undergo chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of the two. Everyone reacts to treatment differently, however, treatment typically improves a patient’s life expectancy and symptoms.

Stage 3 Lung Cancer Life Expectancy Without Treatment

Treatment can be physically, mentally, and fiscally taxing. Without treatment, untreated lung cancer patients live an average of 7 months. Lung Cancer Center understands the inability to undergo cancer treatment due to expenses. If you choose to not utilize treatment or have concerns about your lung cancer journey, we can provide options and support. Lung Cancer Center can work with you to create comfort during your cancer journey.