What is the survival rate of lung cancer?

Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer prevalent in the world. In 2018, over 234,030 new cases of lung cancer are expected to be diagnosed. This represents about 13% of all cancer diagnosis made in 2018. Lung cancer is also the leading cause of death by cancer in men and women across America.

What is Lung Cancer Survival Rate?

Lung cancer survival rates refer to how many people can survive this type of cancer after a period of time. For instance, if 40 out of every 100 people survive lung cancer after 5 years, it can be described as a 5-year survival rate of 40%.

Another term that comes up in relation to lung cancer survival rate is ‘median survival’. This refers to the period of time in which half the people affected with the condition are alive and the other half are dead.

Factors that Affect Survival Rates

There are many different factors that affect lung cancer survival rates. These include:

  • Age

Younger people have a much higher chance of surviving lung cancer compared to older people. However, it is important to remember that younger people are usually diagnosed with lung cancer only when it reaches a late stage. The below table can throw some light:

Source: Lung Cancer in India 2018 (Globocan)

  • Gender

Women have a higher chance of surviving lung cancer compared to men. However, according to one study, the lung cancer mortality rate amongst women is set to reach 43% by 2030.


  • Race

Asians and Caucasians have a higher chance of surviving lung cancer as compared to African Americans.

  • Pre-existing Medical Conditions

People with medical conditions such as lung disease or heart disease have a lower survival rate as compared to other people.

  • Smoking

Smoking after being diagnosed with lung cancer can reduce survival rates and increase the chances of complications arising from chemotherapy, surgery and radiation.

Survival Rates of Lung Cancer by Type

There are three types of lung cancer; small cell lung cancer, NSCLC (Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer) and Bronchioloalveolar Carcinoma (BAC).

  • SCLC (Small Cell Lung Cancer) survival rate: 6% for 5 years
  • NSCLC survival rate: 18% for 5 years
  • BAC survival rate: This has a much higher survival rate than the other two types of lung cancer. According to one study, the BAC survival rate in cases where the tumors had a diameter of less than 3cm was 100% for 5 years.

Survival Rates for Lung Cancer by Stage

The average life expectancy in the case of small cell lung cancer without treatment is between 2 to 4 months. With treatment it extends between 6 to 12 months. There have been instances of 6% of the treated surviving for 5 years.

For non-small cell types of lung cancer, the 5 years survival rates vary according to the stage at which it is diagnosed.

  • Stage 1A: 49%
  • Stage 1B: 45%
  • Stage 2A and Stage 2B: 30%
  • Stage 3A: 14%
  • Stage 3B: 5%
  • Stage 4: 1-2%

How Accurate are Lung Cancer Survival Rates?

What is important to remember is that the survival rates for lung cancer are different for each person. These are only statistics and do not necessarily give a correct estimate of how long an individual can survive lung cancer. Some of the other factors that can affect the survival rates are the patient’s overall health, race, sex and type of treatment administered. Smoking cessation can also improve survival rates.