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5 Essential Facts Families Should Know About Lung Cancer Staging


SPONSORED CONTENT -- (StatePoint) Close to 238,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. That’s about one person every two and a half minutes. Fortunately, more Americans are surviving lung cancer thanks in part to early detection, groundbreaking research and new treatments. However, the path from diagnosis to treatment can be confusing. Advocates say that understanding lung cancer staging is essential to empowering patients and their families.

Lung cancer staging means finding out where the lung cancer cells are located, the size of the lung cancer nodules, and if and where lung cancer has spread.

“Accurate, thorough and timely staging of lung cancer directly impacts treatment options and prognosis,” says Harold Wimmer, president and CEO of the American Lung Association. “This is why it’s imperative to educate people on how this process works, so they can ask questions and advocate for the highest standard of care throughout the cancer journey.”

The American Lung Association and Olympus have partnered on a new educational campaign providing easy-to-digest information and resources to families facing lung cancer. As part of the campaign, they are sharing these important lung cancer staging facts:

1. There are three main scenarios in which lung nodules are found: Lung nodules are small masses of dense tissue that may be an indicator of lung disease. They show up on imaging tests like X-rays and CT scans in one of three ways: through lung cancer screening of high-risk patients, when patients have symptoms and physicians are looking for a cause, or when patients are being treated for other conditions. If a nodule is found, physicians look at its size, shape and the patient’s health history to determine next steps.

2. Sometimes waiting is recommended: Patients are often anxious to get started with treatment, but not every lung nodule needs to be treated. In some cases, the most appropriate next step is to re-scan the lungs in several months to see if there are changes.

3. Staging uses numbers and letters to describe how far the cancer has spread: If the nodule appears cancerous (malignant), physicians gather information to confirm the cancer and understand its type, size, location and spread. Based on this information, the lung cancer is diagnosed and then assigned a stage using numbers and the letters T, N and M—size of the primary tumor (T), the number and location of regional lymph nodes (N), and the presence or absence of metastasis (M).

4. Physicians need information before starting treatment: Physicians need to know exactly how far the cancer has spread, which lymph nodes are involved and if there are any biomarkers, to be able to recommend the most appropriate treatment. People should work closely with their care team to learn what to expect based on their cancer, and to understand the risks and benefits associated with each care decision.

5. New resources are available: Through this campaign, resources are available to provide more information about lung nodules at and staging at In addition, the American Lung Association’s Lung Helpline is staffed with a Lung Cancer Patient Navigator to help answer any questions a person or their family may have.

“There is hope for each stage of lung cancer,” says Wimmer. “By understanding the different stages and the diagnosis process, individuals can have greater control of their care.”


Photo Credit: (c) Lordn / iStock via Getty Images Plus

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