How Long Can You Live with Stage 4 Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer life expectancy and survival rates can provide patients insight into what their future may look like. These rates detail percentages of people with the same type and stage of cancer, such as stage 4, and how long they were alive following their diagnoses. However, factors such as age, sex, treatment, previous smoking, and overall health can all affect the life expectancy of a patient.

The fourth stage of lung cancer is considered advanced and is metastatic, meaning that the cancer cells have spread from the original tumor site to other body parts. Stage 4 lung cancer is dangerous and typically results in a poor prognosis for affected patients.


Stage 4 Life Expectancy According to Cancer Type

The stage 4 life expectancy differs significantly from previous stages of lung cancer. Lung cancer patients in stage 4 typically receive a poor prognosis as the cancer is considered advanced. Several subtypes of stage 4 lung cancer include small cell lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, and adenocarcinomas. Patients with these subtypes possess unique life expectancy and survival rates.

Stage of Lung Cancer 5-Year Survival Rate (% Alive 5 Years Later)*
Stage 1 55 percent
Stage 2 35 percent
Stage 3 15 percent
Stage 4 5 percent

Small Cell Lung Cancer Stage 4 Life Expectancy

Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) accounts for 10-15% of all lung cancers. This cancer type is fast-growing, develops in the lungs’ airways, and frequently spreads to other areas in the body.

There are two subtypes of SCLC: oat (small) cell carcinoma and combined cell carcinoma. These two types differ in appearance, growth, and metastasis. One form of cancer is often called oat cell cancer, as the formation of cancer cells often resembles oats through a microscope.

Stage of Lung Cancer 5-Year Survival Rate (% Alive 5 Years Later)*
Localized Stage 4 SCLC 29 percent
Regional Stage 4 SCLC 18 percent
Distant Stage 4 SCLC 3 percent
All Stages of SCLC Combined 7 percent

Stage 4 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Life Expectancy

80-85% of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancer. NSCLCs are carcinomas that develop in the lining of the lung airways, such as bronchi, bronchioles, and alveoli.

Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer is divided into IVA and IVB. Medical professionals define stage IVA as cancer that has spread within the chest or at least one area outside of the chest. On the other hand, stage IVB has metastasized outside of the chest to more the one place in an organ or more than one organ. We have detailed the stage 4 lung cancer survival rates based on the location and spread of cancer.

Stage of Lung Cancer 5-Year Survival Rate (% Alive 5 Years Later)*
Localized Stage 4 NSCLC 64 percent
Regional Stage 4 NSCLC 37 percent
Distant Stage 4 NSCLC 7 percent
All Stages of NSCLC Combined 25 percent

Adenocarcinoma Stage 4 Life Expectancy

Adenocarcinomas are one subtype of NSCLC and represent around 40% of all NSCLC diagnoses. This type of lung cancer begins to form in cells that typically secrete substances like mucus. Adenocarcinomas tend to be slow-growing lung cancer, leading to a better prognosis and life expectancy. The five-year life expectancy for those with advanced stages varies considerably, but the five-year overall survival rate is 98% after surgery.

Lung Cancer Life Expectancy with Treatment

Treatment typically enhances the life expectancy of lung cancer patients. Stage 4 is considered advanced, meaning it is often not curable, and treatment can do very little to help. Nevertheless, patients may choose to undergo surgery to remove the tumors, chemotherapy, radiation, or another form of therapy. Individual responses to treatment influence the life expectancy of lung cancer patients.

Medical professionals often urge stage 4 lung cancer patients to transition to palliative care instead of typical treatment. Advanced lung cancer can become painful, so palliative care is a type of treatment that focuses on relieving lung cancer symptoms. Examples of palliative care include:

Lung Cancer Life Expectancy Without Treatment

Although medical and palliative treatment often eases symptoms and increases all life expectancy stages, it is a great privilege. In 2018, cancer patients in the US paid $5.6 billion out of pocket for cancer treatments, and cancer costs continue to rise. Those unfortunate enough

Often when diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, the illness is terminal, and the patient passes before justice can ensue. In those cases, individuals may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit to hold responsible parties accountable for their actions.

Even after learning about your lung cancer diagnosis, you may be eligible to take legal recourse through a lung cancer attorney. The settlement awarded from legal action often assists patients in their treatment payment and other expenses.

Learn more about lung cancer and your options at Lung Cancer Center.