What is Squamous Cell Lung Cancer Prognosis?

What is the Life Expectancy for Squamous Cell Lung Cancer?

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What is the prognosis of squamous cell lung cancer?. istockphoto.com

Squamous Cell Lung Cancer Prognosis

Before answering the question “what is the prognosis of squamous cell lung cancer?” it is important to talk about what these numbers mean. First of all, everyone is different. Statistics tell us what the “average” course or survival is, but they don’t tell us anything about specific individuals. Many factors can affect the prognosis of squamous cell lung cancer.

It is also helpful to keep in mind that statistics are based on information that may be several years old.

As new treatments become available, these numbers may not accurately reflect what your prognosis is today.  And that is the case today. There were more new treatments approved for the treatment of lung cancer between 2011 and 2015, than in the 40 year period prior to 2011. Keep in mind that the survival rates you hear about may not reflect these new treatments, and therefore, can't really predict how you will do with the disease. There is a lot of hope for those diagnosed with lung cancer today.

Factors That Can Affect Squamous Cell Lung Cancer Prognosis

Some of the factors that can affect life expectancy with squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • The stage of your cancer – Early-stage squamous cell carcinoma (for example, stage 1 or stage 2) has a better prognosis than later stage cancers (such as stage 3 or stage 4).
  • Your age – Younger people tend to live longer than older people with lung cancer. While statistically, older people do not do as well as younger people with the disease, it is a myth that lung cancer cannot be treated in older adults. In fact, studies have found that older adults with lung cancer often tolerate the same treatments recommended for younger people with the disease.
  • Your sex – The life expectancy for women with lung cancer is higher at each stage of the disease.
  • Your general health at the time of diagnosis – Being healthy overall at the time of diagnosis is associated with a longer life expectancy, and a greater ability to withstand treatments that may extend survival.
  • How you respond to treatment – Side effects of treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, targeted therapies, and radiation therapy vary among different people, and may limit your ability to tolerate treatment.
  • Other health conditions you may have – Health conditions, such as emphysema may lower lung cancer life expectancy.
  • Complications of lung cancer – Complications of lung cancer such as blood clots and pleural effusions, can lower lung cancer life expectancy.

Squamous Cell Lung Cancer Prognosis - Statistics

In addition to variations between different people, prognosis can change with time as better treatments become available as noted earlier, and those better treatments are quickly becoming available. 

Squamous cell carcinoma can spread to different organs like bones, adrenal glands, the liver, small intestine, or brain, and the prognosis for the advanced stage of this type of lung cancer is not as good. That said, there are long-term survivors of even stage 4 squamous cell lung cancer, and newer treatments, such as targeted therapy drugs, are beginning to allow at least some people to live with lung cancer as a chronic disease.


Most of the statistics available look at all types of non-small cell lung cancer grouped together. Of these, the prognosis for squamous cell carcinoma is somewhat lower than that for adenocarcinoma but more optimistic than for large cell lung cancer.

The average 5-year survival rates for non-small cell lung cancer are:

  • Stage 1  – 49 percent for stage 1A and 45 percent for stage 1B
  • Stage 2 – 30 percent for stage 2A and 30 percent for stage 2B
  • Stage 3 – 14 percent for stage 3A and 5 percent for stage 3B
  • Stage 4 (Metastatic) – roughly 1 percent, although studies are suggesting this is increasing

According to the stage, some of the patients with non-metastatic squamous cell cancer can be cured. In general, metastatic squamous cell cancer is not curable but it is treatable. Chemotherapy, for example, may improve survival and also help with the symptoms of lung cancer. Several treatments are currently being evaluated in clinical trials, and offer hope that squamous cell carcinoma of the lungs prognosis will improve in the future. The National Cancer Institute recommends that everyone with lung cancer should consider the possibility of clinical trials. Thankfully, several of the lung cancer organizations have worked together to create a free lung cancer clinical trial matching service that anyone with lung cancer is welcome to use.

Learn More About Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Lungs

If you've recently been diagnosed, you're probably frightened, and a little overwhelmed. We've learned that educating yourself about your cancer, and advocating for yourself as part of your health care team, can play a big role in your quality of life.

Check out this information on squamous cell lung cancer, including some of the new treatments that are being used.  

Sometimes it's hard to know where to begin. Learn about the first steps to take when you are diagnosed with lung cancer - steps that can help empower you in your journey.


American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts and Figures 2016. http://www.cancer.org/research/cancerfactsstatistics/cancerfactsfigures2016/

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