Stage 1 Lung Cancer

If you have stage 1 lung cancer, your cancer hasn’t spread far and is still very treatable. There are two types of lung cancer, and staging will vary for each. However, if someone is diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer, they typically have a positive prognosis (health outlook) and are able to receive effective treatment. Learn about your diagnosis, potential treatment methods, and financial compensation options.

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What Is Stage 1 Lung Cancer?

Stage 1 lung cancer is one of the earliest stages and is fairly easy to treat. The tumors at this stage are small, typically between 1 and 3 centimeters, and are found only in one lung.

Doctor looking at stage 1 lung cancer xraysIt is rare for patients to be diagnosed at such an early stage, because symptoms of stage 1 lung cancer often resemble other respiratory conditions. However, it is becoming more common for patients to be diagnosed early with advances in screening and diagnostic tests.

Getting diagnosed with stage 1 lung cancer has a more positive prognosis (overall health outlook) because the cancer cells have not grown or spread too much and are responsive to treatments.

Unfortunately, cancer treatment can be expensive even with insurance.

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Types of Stage 1 Lung Cancer

There are two types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Doctors stage these two types slightly differently.

NSCLC uses the TNM (tumor, node, metastasis) staging system like other cancers and has 5 total stages (stages 0-4). This system determines how advanced the lung cancer is by measuring the tumor size and whether or not cancer cells have spread to nearby lymph nodes or other parts of the body.

SCLC, on the other hand, uses a more simplified staging system.

Learn more about each type of lung cancer in stage 1.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Stage 1

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer.

Did You Know?

80% of lung cancer diagnoses are non-small cell lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Typically in stage 1, the lung cancer is a small tumor that has not spread to any lymph nodes or other parts of the body. It progresses from stage 0, which is when the cancer is only in the top layers of the lung tissue and has not yet spread deeper.

Stage 1 NSCLC can also be classified into substages. There are two substages: Stage 1A and 1B. Learn about each below.

Stage 1A

Stage 1A NSCLC lung tumors are 3 centimeters or smaller.

They may be further classified as the following based on tumor size:

  • 1A1: The tumor is 1 centimeter or smaller or the tumor is less than 3 centimeters and has spread no more than 0.5 centimeters into the deeper lung tissues.
  • 1A2: The tumor is between 1 and 2 centimeters.
  • 1A3: The tumor is between 2 and 3 centimeters.

Stage 1B

Stage 1B NSCLC tumors are over 3 centimeters but under 4 centimeters in size..

Small Cell Lung Cancer Stage 1

Doctors don’t use the TNM system to classify small cell lung cancer. The first stage of SCLC is called the “limited stage,” which means the cancer is localized to one side of the chest.

Did You Know?

One in three SCLC patients are diagnosed in the localized stage.

The next and final stage of SCLC is “extensive stage,” which describes SCLC that has spread to other parts of the body such as the other lung, bone marrow, and brain.

Symptoms of Stage 1 Lung Cancer

In its early stages, lung cancer symptoms may be mistaken for other conditions. This means patients might not see a doctor until symptoms worsen when the cancer may have spread.

Some early symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Bloody mucus
  • Chronic cough that gets worse
  • Frequent lung infections
  • Shortness of breath

Advanced-stage lung cancer patients often experience the same symptoms along with more symptoms, such as weight loss and chest pain, depending on where the cancer has spread to in their body.

Diagnosing Stage 1 Lung Cancer

If you are experiencing any of lung cancer stage 1 symptoms, talk with your doctor as soon as possible. They will want to begin screening tests to provide a stage 1 lung cancer diagnosis.

These tests include:

  • Imaging scans, which detect the presence of cancer cells in the lungs. Common imaging scans are X-rays, CT scans (computed tomography scans), and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans.
  • Biopsies, which take a fluid or tissue sample to study under a microscope and determine if the cells are cancerous.

Stage 1 Lung Cancer Prognosis

The prognosis of stage 1 lung cancer is quite promising compared to most of the other stages.

A prognosis includes estimations known as survival rate and life expectancy and depends on several factors.

Factors affecting your prognosis include:

  • Your age: If you are an older adult you will probably have a more negative outlook.
  • Your health: Patients who are generally healthy and who do not smoke may have a more positive prognosis than other patients.
  • The type of lung cancer: NSCLC generally has a better prognosis than SCLC. This is because NSCLC spreads at a slower rate.
  • The treatment plan: The prognosis depends on what treatments you get. Generally speaking, multimodal treatment plans that combine different types of treatments, such as surgery with chemotherapy, are more effective.

Stage 1 Lung Cancer Survival Rate

Stage 1 lung cancer patients have better survival rates than people with more advanced lung cancer.

A 2017 study from the World Journal of Radiology found that NSCLC patients in stage 1 had a positive survival rate. Depending on the size of the tumor at diagnosis, NSCLC stage 1 patients had a 5-year survival rate between 76% and 92%.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), patients with localized SCLC have an overall 5-year survival rate of 30%.

Stage 1 Lung Cancer Life Expectancy

Lung cancer life expectancy is an estimate of how long a patient will live after their diagnosis.

Without treatment, stage 1 lung cancer patients can expect to live for 12 months after diagnosis.

With treatment, it is possible for some patients to live for years or decades after their doctor’s estimated prognosis. One study in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology found stage 1 lung cancer patients who received surgery had an overall life expectancy of 68 months.

Talk with your doctor to get an accurate life expectancy estimate as well as an appropriate treatment plan.

Need help paying for treatment? Lung Cancer Group may be able to connect you with resources to help. Contact us today to see if you’re eligible.

Treatment Options for Stage 1 Lung Cancer

Treatments for lung cancer are the best way to improve a patient’s life expectancy with lung cancer. Which treatments doctors use for stage 1 lung cancer will depend on the type of lung cancer (NSCLC versus SCLC), overall health, and other factors.

Learn about the types of treatments for lung cancer stage 1 below.

Lung Cancer Surgery

Lung cancer surgery is when doctors remove lung cancer tumors along with surrounding lung tissue and lymph nodes.

The following surgeries may be used to treat stage 1 lung cancer:

  • Lobectomy opens the thoracic (chest) cavity and takes out the lobe of the lung that has the tumor. Most surgeons believe that lobectomy offers the best chance for a cure since it removes more tissue.
  • Segmentectomy removes a section of a lung lobe. It can be used to remove a very small stage 1 NSCLC tumor. Doctors may recommend segmentectomy if removing the entire lung lobe is dangerous.
  • Wedge resection removes a tumor and a small amount of healthy tissue around it. Your care team may recommend this surgery if removing the entire affected lung lobe is dangerous.

After surgery, the doctors will check the removed tissue to see if there are any cancer cells at the edges. If there are, the doctors may recommend additional treatment options.


Chemotherapy for lung cancer is a common treatment option for early-stage lung cancer. It uses powerful drugs to kill cancer cells.

Doctors may prescribe chemotherapy for stage 1 NSCLC that has a high chance of coming back (recurrence) based on location, size, and other factors. Cancer care teams usually provide adjuvant chemotherapy (which means it is offered after surgery).


Radiation therapy uses high energy beams to kill or control lung cancer cells. It can be used by itself or with other cancer treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.

If you have remaining lung cancer cells after surgery, oncologists (cancer doctors) may use radiation therapy to kill these cells. Doctors may also prescribe radiation therapy on its own if patients may not be good candidates for surgery.


Immunotherapy is proving to be successful at treating cancer, including mesothelioma and lung cancer. It uses immune-boosting drugs to help the body target and attack cancer cells.

It is generally used to treat advanced or metastatic lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, but it could also help keep early-stage lung cancer from spreading.

Get Help After a Lung Cancer Stage 1 Diagnosis

If you or your loved one’s stage 1 lung cancer was caused by asbestos exposure, Lung Cancer Group may be able to help you access financial assistance for treatment and other expenses.

Our team can connect you with attorneys who can file an asbestos lawsuit against the manufacturers responsible for your asbestos exposure and resulting lung cancer.

Call (877) 446-5767 to learn more about how we can help you.

Stage 1 Lung Cancer FAQs

Is stage 1 lung cancer curable?

While there’s no universal cure at this time, lung cancer may be curable in some patients if doctors diagnose and treat it in the early stages. Stage 1 lung cancer has a much higher survival rate than more advanced stages of lung cancer.

In stage 1, lung cancer has a high survival rate because it is more likely to respond well to treatment.

The 5-year survival rate for NSCLC patients in stage 1 is between 76% and 92%, depending on the size of the tumor, according to the World Journal of Radiology.

In contrast, the 5-year survival rate for localized SCLC (the first stage of SCLC) is about 30%, according to ASCO.

Survival will also vary depending on the type of lung cancer you have. For example, NSCLC has a more positive survival rate than SCLC.

It depends. SCLC at any stage typically grows and spreads faster than NSCLC, according to the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Other factors, such as where the tumor is located, will affect how quickly stage 1 lung cancer moves to more advanced stages.

For this reason, it is critical for patients to receive a diagnosis and treatment as early as possible.

The best treatment for stage 1 lung cancer will vary for each patient. Doctors may use one treatment or a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or immunotherapy.

The chosen treatment(s) depends on your overall health, lung cancer type, the size of the tumor. Talk to your health care provider to learn more about your treatment options.

Lung Cancer Group was established by a team of caring advocates so those with lung cancer and other asbestos-related diseases can get the help they deserve. Our site provides the most accurate and up-to-date information about lung cancer, its link to asbestos, and financial compensation available to patients. Contact us to learn more and get assistance.

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  10. Puri, V., Crabtree, T. D., Bell, J. M., et al. (2015). Treatment Outcomes in Stage I Lung Cancer: A Comparison of Surgery and Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy. Journanal of Thoracic Oncology. Retrieved July 19, 2023, from
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