Lung Cancer Survival Rates

Cancer survival rates are usually discussed in terms of 5-year relative survival, which means the proportion of patients alive five years after diagnosis. Keep in mind that statistics like these are based on large groups of people and cannot predict what might happen with an individual patient.

In addition, the most current national data is from patients diagnosed between 2014 and 2018, which doesn’t reflect the impact of recent improvements in early detection and the latest treatment advances.

In the United States, overall survival (including all stages of disease) among people diagnosed with lung and bronchus cancer is 21.7%. The National Cancer Institute records survival rates using three very broad categories:

  • Localized disease. In patients with early-stage, localized cancers in whom the cancer is confined to the primary site, 5-year survival is 59.8%.
  • Regional disease. Among those whose cancer has spread to regional lymph nodes, the survival is 32.9%.
  • Distant disease. Patients with lung cancer that has metastasized to other body areas at the time of diagnosis, have a survival rate of 6.3%.

Learn more lung cancer statistics from the National Cancer Institute.

Other factors that contribute to prognosis

  • Cell type. Lung cancer survival will also differ according to the type of lung cell that is cancerous, such as small cell cancer versus non-small cell cancer. Small cell cancers have poorer survival. Initially they respond well to treatment but after some time may become resistant.
  • Patient age
  • Underlying medical problems. Heart failure, kidney failure, severe emphysema — these can impact overall lifespan regardless of a patient having cancer, so adding cancer on top of these background diseases can impact prognosis.
  • Smoking contributes to heart disease, vascular disease, and lung disease.
There is always hope for anyone diagnosed with lung cancer, no matter what their stage. Roswell Park is here for you. We are going to take care of you, and we are in this fight with you.
Elisabeth Dexter, MD, FACS, FCCP
Assistant Professor of Oncology
Department of Thoracic Surgery