2 Hospital Physician Board Review Manual www.turner-white.com
Stage III Non–Small Cell Lung Cancer
Curtis R. Chong, MD, PhD, MPhil, and Arthur T. Skarin, MD, FACP, FCCP
Each year approximately 228,000 Americans will
be diagnosed with lung cancer, and 159,000 will die
of this disease. 1 An estimated 85% of lung cancer
cases are non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC),
more than 50% of NSCLC is comprised of adenocarcinoma, the median age at diagnosis is 71 years,
and 25% of patients with this diagnosis present with
stage III disease.2, 3 In 2010 the seventh edition of
the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC)
TNM staging system for lung cancer was released
(Figure 1), and several changes were made which
affect the patient population designated as having
stage III disease: 4, 5
classified as stage IIIA rather than IIB. Tumors
larger than 7 cm were previously classified as
were reclassified to stage IIB rather than IIIB.
Tumor nodules in the same lobe were classified as T4 in the 6th edition of the AJCC staging system, and were reclassified as T3.
volvement (T3N1M0 or T3N2M0) were reclas-
sified as IIIA, rather than IIIB.
were reclassified as IIIA (N0/1) and IIIB (N2/3),
rather than IV. Ipsilateral tumor nodules were
reclassified as T4, rather than M1.
fied as IIIA (N0/1), rather than IIIB.
sified as IV, rather than IIIB. Malignant pericar-
dial or pleural effusions were reclassified as
M1a, rather than T4.
The median and 5-year survival of patients is
14 months and 19% for patients with clinical stage
IIIA disease, 10 months and 7% for clinical stage
IIIB disease, 22 months and 24% for pathologic
stage IIIA disease, and 13 months and 9% for
pathologic stage IIIB disease (Figure 2). 6;Despite
these grim statistics, stage III NSCLC is curable
for some patients. Treatment typically involves
combined-modality therapy, which may involve
surgery, radiation, and/or chemotherapy. The optimal sequencing and combination has been the
subject of some controversy and is tailored to individual patients, as discussed below. Using illustra-
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