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Management of stage I and stage II non-small cell lung cancer

Howard J West, MD
Eric Vallières, MD, FRCSC
Steven E Schild, MD
Section Editors
James R Jett, MD
Joseph S Friedberg, MD
Rogerio C Lilenbaum, MD, FACP
Deputy Editor
Sadhna R Vora, MD


The treatment for lung cancer depends upon tumor histology (small cell versus non-small cell), extent (stage) and patient specific factors (eg, age, pulmonary function, comorbidity). The major subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) include adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma, in decreasing order of frequency of occurrence. (See "Pathology of lung malignancies".)

Patients with NSCLC who have disease limited to one lung and not involving the mediastinum or more distant sites have localized, stage I or stage II disease (table 1). Stage I plus stage II disease accounts for approximately 30 percent of patients with NSCLC [1]. In this setting, surgical resection is the primary approach to treatment if there are no contraindications.

The approach to treatment of patients with stage I and stage II disease will be reviewed here. Overviews of other aspects of lung cancer are presented separately. (See "Overview of the risk factors, pathology, and clinical manifestations of lung cancer" and "Overview of the initial evaluation, treatment and prognosis of lung cancer".)


The tumor node metastasis (TNM) staging system is used for treatment planning and prognostic purposes in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) (table 1) [2]. The current (seventh) edition of the TNM system was validated in a large clinical database and correlates better with survival than earlier versions of the TNM staging system (figure 1) [1]. (See "Overview of the initial evaluation, diagnosis, and staging of patients with suspected lung cancer" and "Tumor node metastasis (TNM) staging system for non-small cell lung cancer".)

Clinical staging is often unreliable, and patients thought to have stage I or II disease are restaged pathologically following surgery. Pathologic staging of the mediastinal lymph nodes is performed either prior to or at the time of resection. The issue of when to pathologically stage patients with stage I or II disease is discussed separately. (See "Management of stage III non-small cell lung cancer", section on 'Mediastinal evaluation'.)


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Oct 11, 2016.
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