Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths. However, survival rates continue to increase while the number of new diagnoses declines.

If you receive a diagnosis of lung cancer, many factors will affect your outlook. This includes:

  • overall health
  • type and stage of disease
  • treatment plan

The American Cancer Society (ACS) uses statistics from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database to calculate the 5-year relative survival rate of lung cancer.

This rate compares a person with a specific type and stage of lung cancer to the general population. This is to see how likely they are to live for 5 years after their initial diagnosis.

Survival rates are only estimates and not a prediction of your individual outlook. Everyone’s body responds to the disease and its treatment differently.

Keep reading to learn more about the different types of lung cancer and the 5-year relative survival rates by type, stage, sex, age, and race.

A note on sex and gender

We use the terms “female” and “male” in this article to reflect the anatomy and chromosomes of sex assigned at birth.

Was this helpful?

There are two main types of lung cancer, which have different 5-year relative survival rates, as well as treatment plans and outlooks.

  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) accounts for 80–85% of lung cancer diagnoses and typically spreads more slowly.
  • Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is diagnosed in 10–15% of people with lung cancer. It’s more aggressive and may spread more quickly than NSCLS. Sometimes, it’s called “oat cell cancer” based on the way the cells look under a microscope.

The SEER database classifies lung cancer into three progressive stages:

  • Localized: Cancer is only in one lung.
  • Regional: Cancer has spread from the lung to nearby lymph nodes or tissues.
  • Distant: Cancer has spread outside one lung to the other lung or to distant parts of the body, such as the brain, bones, or liver.

Here are the 5-year relative survival rates for NSCLS and SCLC based on the three SEER stages:


Healthcare professionals may also use other staging methods to classify types of lung cancer. These refer to the location and extent of your cancer and may help determine the best treatment plan for you.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

A doctor may assess NSCLC using the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system.

  • (T) Tumor: This looks at the size of your tumor and if it has spread.
  • (N) Nodes: This looks at whether the tumor has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • (M) Metastasis: This looks at the tumor’s spread beyond the lungs to other organs.

A doctor will assign a number for each category. Then, they will classify your lung cancer into stages 0–4 based on the scores — 0 being the earliest and 4 being the most advanced.

Here’s a look at the 5-year relative survival rate of NSCLC between 2013 and 2017 by stage:

Stage5-year relative survival rate with treatment
Stage 155%
Stage 235%
Stage 315%
Stage 45%

The authors of a 2019 study found that up to 55% of people with NSCLC are diagnosed in stage 4.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

Doctors typically use a two-stage classification method for SCLC:

  • Limited: The cancer is only on one side of the chest and in a limited, defined area.
  • Extensive: The cancer has spread throughout the lung, to the other lung, to lymph nodes on the other side of the chest, or to other parts of the body.

SCLC has a less favorable outlook due to how aggressive it tends to be. It has an overall 5-year survival rate of only 7%.

Females are slightly more likely to receive a lung cancer diagnosis than males in the United States. However, males are more likely to die from the cancer.

According to the ACS, new lung cancer diagnoses and disease-related deaths in the United States in 2023 are:

New diagnosesDeaths

The average age of a lung cancer diagnosis is 70 years old, according to the ACS.

A very small number of people are diagnosed under age 45. Most people are over age 65.

Lung cancer affects all populations. However, it may not do so equally.

According to the ACS, Black males are 12% more likely to develop lung cancer than white males. The reason behind this is complex and isn’t related to increased cigarette smoking rates.

Multiple factors may be at play, including:

  • genetics
  • environment
  • health disparities, such as a lack of healthcare access

In Black females, the rate of diagnosis is around 16% lower than in white females.

Lung cancer recurrence happens when cancer returns after treatment or having no signs of cancer for 1 year.

In a 2019 study, they found that 30% of people with lung cancer have a risk of it recurring.

After surgical removal, the recurrence rate is between 30% and 77%, with another 2–5% of people developing a second tumor.

For NSCLC, 30–55% of people with lung cancer may relapse within 5 years of surgery.

The majority of people who develop SCLC will relapse. The outlook for recurrent SCLC is less favorable, with an average estimated survival time of 5 months when treated with chemotherapy.

Due to the risk of recurrence, it’s incredibly important to follow up with an oncologist and report any new symptoms right away.

Is lung cancer the most fatal?

In the United States, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths.

It’s responsible for more deaths than breast, prostate, and colon cancer combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Is lung cancer completely curable?

The success of lung cancer treatment depends on several factors, such as the type and stage of cancer. It is possible to completely cure lung cancer.

What is the death percentage of lung cancer?

Approximately 1 in 2 people diagnosed with lung cancer die within 1 year of diagnosis, according to the American Lung Association. However, the death rate has decreased by 6.5% since 2005 and is expected to keep doing so.

Lung cancer is a serious disease, but advances in treatment are being made every day. Survival rates are even increasing. The most common group of lung cancers, NSCLCs, have a better outlook than SCLCs.

Survival rates can give you a rough idea of what to expect. However, several factors — like your age and the type of lung cancer you have — may affect your outlook.

Speak with a doctor about how to proceed with your treatment and to get the most precise outlook.