Survival statistics for non–small cell lung cancer

Last medical review:

Survival statistics for non–small cell lung cancer are very general estimates and must be interpreted very carefully. Because these statistics are based on the experience of groups of people, they cannot be used to predict a particular person’s chances of survival.

There are many different ways to measure and report cancer survival statistics. Your doctor can explain the statistics for non–small cell lung cancer and what they mean to you.

Net survival

Net survival represents the probability (chance) of surviving cancer in the absence of other causes of death. It is used to give an estimate of the percentage of people who will survive cancer.

In Canada, the 5-year net survival for lung cancer is 22%. This means that, on average, about 22% of people diagnosed with lung cancer will live for at least 5 years.This net survival includes both non–small cell and small cell lung cancer, there are no separate net survival statistics for each type.

Survival varies with each stage of lung cancer. Generally, the earlier lung cancer is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome.

Survival for non–small cell lung cancer

There are no specific Canadian statistics available for the different stages of non–small cell lung cancer. The following information comes from a worldwide study called the IASLC Lung Cancer Staging Project. This study collected survival data about lung cancer on more than 81,000 patients from 19 countries, including Canada. The study looked at overall survival, which is the length of time from diagnosis or starting treatment that people diagnosed with the disease are still alive. It uses updated lung cancer staging categories that divide stages into several substages.

Non–small cell lung cancer survival
Stage 5-year overall survival
1A1 92%
1A2 83%
1A3 77%
1B 66% to 68%
2A 52% to 60%
2B 47% to 53%
3A 36%
3B 19% to 26%
3C 13%
4A 10%
4B 0%

Questions about survival

Talk to your doctor about your prognosis. A prognosis depends on many factors, including:

  • your health history
  • the type of lung cancer
  • the stage
  • certain aspects of the cancer, such as genetic changes to the cancer cells
  • the treatments chosen
  • how the cancer responds to treatment

Only a doctor familiar with these factors can put all of this information together with survival statistics to arrive at a prognosis.

Expert review and references

  • Stephen Lam, MD, FRCPC
  • Goldstraw P, Chansky K, Crowley J, et al. The IASLC lung cancer staging project: proposals for the revision of the TNM stage groupings in the forthcoming (eighth) edition of the TNM Classification for Lung Cancer. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2015: 11(1):39–51.
  • Canadian Cancer Statistics Advisory Committee. Canadian Cancer Statistics 2021. Canadian Cancer Society; 2021.