Radiation Oncologist Questions Lung Cancer

What is the chance of survival in stage 4 lung cancer?

My father is 72 years old and he has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The disease has made him quite weak and we are wondering if the chemotherapy will be of any use to him. What are the chances of surviving stage 4 lung cancer?

8 Answers

Length of survival depends on response to therapy. Stage 4 lung cancer is not curable but with proper therapy it is possible to prolong quality and quantity of life.
Only less then 5% of patients survive Stage IV lung cancer.
Chemotherapy is intended to slow down the disease progression, but does not cure it.
He may respond to chemotherapy or Target therapy depending on cell type for at least a few years with good quality of life.
Short answer: Chemotherapy may help depending on his goals, but there is nearly zero chance of long term survival.
Long answer: The median survival of someone over 70 with Stage 4 lung cancer is about 2-4 months. The fact that you say it is making him weak is a bad sign and likely puts him on the lower end of that spectrum. Chemotherapy comes in many flavors, some more toxic than others and some more effective than others. I would discuss your father’s goals of his care to get a clearer understanding of he wants “everything done that can be done” or would rather just focus on being comfortable.
Without any chemotherapy, he has 2 to 6 months to live. With chemotherapy, he could buy another 2 to 4 years, depending on where his tumor had spread.
Stage 4 lung cancer is, by definition, incurable. That is not to say it is not treatable, and chemotherapy is the method of choice. Depending on what type of lung cancer, what mutations is has (if any), the number of sites of metastatic disease, the drugs used for chemo, his symptoms and overall health, his overall outcome and symptoms can be dramatically different.
Without knowing any of the above, the average survival of a Stage 4 lung cancer patient is about 2-8 months, but this is a great question to ask his medical oncologist who could give a much better estimate.
It depends on the type of lung cancer and the attitude of the patient. If it is truly a stage 4 non small cell lung cancer, the survival is poor, despite the treatment. However, now we have immunotherapy, which definitely may help some patients turn the corner and give them a chance of long-term survival. A positive attitude helps a great deal.
There are far too many variables to respond specifically. If the stage IV is diffuse spread then cure is not likely at all. Nonetheless, if there is pain from bone or organ involvement, localized treatment is appropriate.