Is Stage IV Always Terminal?

Reviewed on 5/6/2021

Stage IV cancer is advanced and needs a more aggressive and extensive approach, but it is not always terminal.
Stage IV cancer is advanced and needs a more aggressive and extensive approach, but it is not always terminal. Stage IV cancer is the most severe form of cancer in which cancer has spread to a distant part of the body from its origin.

Stage IV cancer is advanced and needs a more aggressive and extensive approach, but it is not always terminal. Cancer research has progressed with leaps and bounds in the last few years. Scientists have mapped specific cancer proteins that, if attacked with the right drug, may slow down cancer progression. Clinical trials are being conducted all over the world where you can enlist and obtain the newest drugs that may help your cause.

A lot of survival statistic depends on the type of cancer a person has, their genes and other comorbidities they may have. For example, nearly 27 percent of women with stage IV breast cancer survive for at least five years, whereas only around 8 percent of people with stage IV mesothelioma survive for five years or more.

What is stage IV cancer?

Stage IV cancer is the most severe form of cancer in which cancer has spread to a distant part of the body from its origin. Thus, testicular cancer may have spread to the lungs and bones, thyroid cancer may have spread to the brain, and so on. It is also known as metastatic or advanced disease.

The staging system often used for most types of cancer is the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC) TNM system. In these staging systems, three types of key information are used.

  • T (tumor): It refers to the size of the original tumor.
  • N (node): It describes whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.
  • M (metastasis): It refers to the spreading of cancer to other parts of the body.

A number (0-4) or the letter X is allocated to each factor. A higher number means the cancer is advanced. For instance, a T1 score refers to a smaller tumor than a T2 score. The letter X indicates that information could not be assessed. M1 indicates that cancer has spread to a distant part of the body.

The physician combines T, N, and M results and other factors specific to cancer to determine the stage of cancer for each person. Most cancer types have four stages: stages I-IV, with stages I and IV being the least severe and most severe forms of cancer, respectively. Some types of cancer also have a stage 0 (zero).

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How long can someone survive with stage IV cancer?

Survival rates let you know about the percentage of people who live with certain types of cancer for a specific period. The physician often uses an overall five-year survival rate. Factors that may affect the survival rate include

  • Cancer type
  • Grade
  • Genetics
  • Other traits

Stage IV cancer is the most severe form of cancer in which cancer has spread to a distant part of the body from its origin. Below are the survival rates for some of the most common types of stage 4 cancer.

Stage IV distant cancer survival rates chart
Number Location Survival rate (percent)
1 Breast cancer (female) 26.1
2 Lung and bronchus 5.8
3 Prostate 28
4 Colon and rectal 12 to 39
5 Melanoma (skin) 19
6 Cervical 15.5
7 Non-Hodgkin lymphoma 63.3
8 Kidney and renal pelvis 13.0
9 Uterine (endometrial) 17.3
10 Leukemia 63.7
11 Pancreas 1
12 Thyroid 54.9

How is stage IV cancer treated?

The treatment of stage IV cancer depends on the cancer type and how far it has spread. Treatment may either aim to manage symptoms, improve the person’s quality of life or stop cancer growth.

Treatment at this stage might include

Additionally, you can enroll for clinical trials to avail the newest drugs for cancer that are yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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References
https://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/diagnosing-cancer/stages-cancer

https://acsjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.3322/caac.21565

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