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Study results recently published in the journal Chest indicate that smaller cancer size in stage I non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) at the time of diagnosis is associated with improved curability.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States and Europe. The most common type of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, is a malignancy that arises from the tissues of the lung. Upon diagnosis, NSCLC is defined in stages depending on the tumor size and if the cancer cells have spread within the lung or to other sites in the body. Under most circumstances, NSCLC is not curable. However, a large portion of patients with stage I NSCLC, or cancer that has not spread from its site of origin, are cured with standard treatment approaches. Subsets of patients with stage I NSCLC have improved long-term outcomes over others, and researchers continue to evaluate which disease and/or patient characteristics are associated with better or worse outcomes so they can individualize treatment choices based on prognosis.

Researchers from New York recently conducted a study including 7,620 patients who had been diagnosed with NSCLC in 1988 or later. Each patient had been diagnosed with stage I NSCLC and patients were divided into 5 tumor size categories: 5mm-15mm, 16-25mm, 26-35mm, 36-45mm, and >45mm. All patients underwent the surgical removal of their cancer. Overall, smaller tumor sizes correlated with increased cure rates. The 12-year survival rate for patients with tumors 5-15mm was 69%; for those tumors 16-25mm, the survival rate was 63%; for tumors 26-35mm, the survival rate was 58%; for tumors 36-45mm, the survival rate was 53%; and for tumors greater than 45mm in size, the survival rate was 43%.

Researchers concluded that smaller tumor size at the time of diagnosis in patients with stage I NSCLC is associated with increased survival and curability. Patients with larger tumors may benefit most from additional therapy following surgery. The researchers recommend that further study of stage I NSCLC may be beneficial to recognize different subsets of patients with associated prognoses. Patients with stage I NSCLC may wish to speak with their physician about the size of their cancer and associated outcomes.

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Reference: Wisnivesky J, Yankelevitz D, Henscheke C. The Effect of Tumor Size on Curability of Stage I Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Chest. 2004; 126: 761-765.

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