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Asbestos Lung Cancer Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for asbestos lung cancer is 7-16 months. However, some patients have lived for years with the right medical care, and newer treatments are helping to improve lung cancer survival rates. If you were diagnosed with lung cancer after being exposed to asbestos, our Patient Advocates can see if you’re eligible for financial assistance to help pay for life-extending treatment.

Fact-Checked and Updated by: Laura Wright

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Lung Cancer from Asbestos Life Expectancy

Asbestos lung cancer life expectancy is the estimated amount of time a doctor expects someone to survive after diagnosis. The average lung cancer life expectancy ranges from a few months to over a year.

However, each case is different, and some patients may live longer than average depending on their type and stage of asbestos lung cancer, overall health, and other factors.

When you’re diagnosed with lung cancer, your doctor will determine your prognosis, which is their prediction of how the disease will progress. A prognosis helps you understand your life expectancy and the treatment options available to you.

Lung cancer life expectancy isn’t the same thing as lung cancer survival rate, even though doctors use both measurements to determine prognosis. Life expectancy is an estimate of an individual patient’s survival time, while survival rates provide a general overview of how many patients are still alive after a certain number of years post-diagnosis.

Asbestos Lung Cancer vs. Mesothelioma Life Expectancy

Asbestos lung cancer and malignant mesothelioma are both caused by asbestos exposure, but they are distinct illnesses with different life expectancies.

Lung cancer develops in the cells within the lungs, while pleural mesothelioma starts in the lining of the lungs (known as the pleura) and has an average life expectancy of 12-21 months.

Mesothelioma and lung cancer are serious illnesses, but specialized treatment from an oncologist can help extend your life expectancy and manage your symptoms.

Request a free case review today to learn how you can get help paying for treatment that can improve your asbestos lung cancer life expectancy.

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Average Life Expectancy by Lung Cancer Type

There are two main types of asbestos-related lung cancer: non-small lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Your life expectancy with lung cancer will depend partly on which type you have.

  • Non-small cell lung cancer life expectancy: 11-13 months
    NSCLC makes up 80-85% of lung cancer cases and has three different cell subtypes. Overall life expectancy varies based on the subtype and stage at diagnosis.
  • Small cell lung cancer life expectancy: 7-16 months
    SCLC is rarer but more aggressive. It responds better to treatment if tumors haven’t spread past the lungs.

Asbestos Lung Cancer Stages and Life Expectancy

Staging is a way for doctors to describe how far asbestos lung cancer has spread. The stage is determined by the size of the tumor and whether it has spread past the lungs to lymph nodes or other organs.

The stage of lung cancer at diagnosis has a significant impact on life expectancy and treatment plans. Typically, the earlier the cancer is detected, the longer a patient’s life expectancy.

According to the American Lung Association, the overall 5-year survival rate for lung cancer increases to 56% when it’s diagnosed before it has a chance to spread.

There are unique staging systems for NSCLC and SCLC. Learn more about these stages and the survival statistics for each below.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Stages

Non-small cell lung cancer is categorized into stages 0-IV, also written as 0-4, which is based on the TNM (Tumor Node Metastasis) system developed by the American Joint Committee on Cancer (AJCC).

The stages are measured based on the size of the tumor (T), the spread to lymph nodes (N), and metastasis (M), or spread, to other organs. The higher the stage, the further the cancer has spread, which makes it more difficult to treat.

NSCLC can also be classified based on where the cancer cells are located: localized, regional, or distant. This staging method is based on the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) program.

NSCLC StageLocation of Cancer Cells5-Year Survival Rate
LocalizedCancer is limited to the lung65%
RegionalCancer has spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes37%
DistantCancer has spread to distant organs or tissues9%
Source: American Cancer Society (ACS)

In a 2021 study on stage 4 NSCLC life expectancy, researchers found that patients lived anywhere from 3 months to 10 years after being diagnosed, depending on their age, cancer subtype, overall health, treatment plan, and other factors.

Diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer?

Treatment can help improve your life expectancy. Connect with one of our Patient Advocates at (866) 608-8933 to learn how to pay for lung cancer treatment.

Small Cell Lung Cancer Stages

Small cell lung cancer can also be categorized in stages 0-IV using the TNM classification.

Many doctors also use a 2-stage system to classify SCLC as limited stage or extensive stage.

  • Limited stage SCLC life expectancy: 12-16 months
    Limited stage SCLC indicates that cancer is concentrated on one side of the chest and treatable with a single radiation field. According to the ACS, one-third of cases are diagnosed in the limited stage.
  • Extensive stage SCLC life expectancy: 7-11 months
    Extensive stage SCLC refers to cancer that has spread to larger areas of the lung, the other lung or side of the chest, or other organs, lymph nodes, or tissues throughout the body. This is one of the most aggressive forms of lung cancer and can be challenging to treat.

The Localized, Regional, and Distant SEER stages can also be used to measure the spread of SCLC. Survival rates for SCLC are lower than those for NSCLC. However, SCLC can respond well to radiation and other treatments if caught early.

SCLC StageLocation of Cancer Cells5-Year Survival Rate
LocalizedCancer is limited to the lung30%
RegionalCancer has spread to nearby tissues or lymph nodes18%
DistantCancer has spread to distant organs or tissues3%
Source: American Cancer Society (ACS)

Asbestos Cancer Lung Life Expectancy With Treatment

Early detection and treatment are key to improving your life expectancy with lung cancer.

A 2022 review of the National Cancer Database found that the median life expectancy for patients who got treatment was more than 4 years for early-stage NSCLC, 15 months for stage 3 NSCLC (locally advanced cancer), and 6.4 months for stage 4 (metastatic) cancer.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, the median life expectancy for limited stage SCLC with treatment is 12-16 months, and 7-11 months for extensive SCLC.

Keep reading to learn more about different treatments that can increase asbestos lung life expectancy.


Surgery can help improve lung cancer life expectancy by stopping cancer from spreading and damaging other organs.

In a study of 191 patients with NSCLC, the 3-year survival rate was more than 92% for those who had a lobectomy, which removes an entire lobe of the cancerous lung.

Surgery can be performed to remove a lung tumor and surrounding lymph nodes. Surgery isn’t normally recommended for patients with stage 4 NSCLC because the spread of the cancer can make it impossible to completely remove tumors.

Life expectancy after lung cancer surgery varies based on the stage of the disease, the patient’s overall health, and whether they smoke after treatment.


Chemotherapy involves administering medications through an IV to destroy or slow the growth of cancer cells. Chemotherapy may also be used before lung cancer surgery to shrink tumors, making them easier to remove.

Many patients with SCLC get several rounds of chemotherapy with a few weeks of recovery time between treatment sessions.

One study found that the median small cell lung cancer life expectancy with chemotherapy was 3-24 months. Another study published in Cureus highlighted an SCLC patient who lived for 3 years with chemotherapy and other treatments.

You may be able to pursue compensation for your treatment if you’ve been diagnosed with asbestos lung cancer. Get a free case review today to explore your options.

Get Compensation for an Asbestos-Related Disease

You may be owed money if you became ill after asbestos exposure.

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Immunotherapy medications help the body’s immune system better identify and attack cancer cells. They’re often used alongside other treatments like chemotherapy.

In the POSEIDON clinical trial, stage 4 NSCLC patients who took the immunotherapy medications Imfinzi® and Imjudo® while receiving chemotherapy lived for 14 months. In comparison, the group of patients who only got chemotherapy survived for 11.7 months.

The CAPSTONE-1 trial found that the median overall lung cancer life expectancy with immunotherapy and chemotherapy was 15 months, compared to less than 13 months with chemotherapy alone. Patients who received immunotherapy were given the experimental medication adebrelimab.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation therapy, also known as radiotherapy, uses beams of intense energy to shrink cancer tumors.

Radiation is often used with other lung cancer treatments like chemotherapy or surgery. In cases where a patient is unable to undergo other procedures, radiation therapy may be the primary treatment.

In a 2021 study on lung cancer life expectancy and treatment, stage 4 NSCLC patients who got radiation therapy lived nearly 3 months longer than those who didn’t receive radiotherapy.

Asbestos Lung Cancer Life Expectancy Without Treatment

The side effects of lung cancer treatments can be physically and emotionally challenging. Some patients may decide against treatment if they feel the side effects will significantly impact their quality of life.

NSCLC patients who did not receive treatment had an average life expectancy of just over 7 months, according to a report in Systematic Reviews.

A study published in the medical journal Breathe found that untreated SCLC patients lived an average of 2-4 months after diagnosis.

Lung cancer patients may opt for palliative care instead of aggressive cancer treatments, prioritizing comfort and symptom management over a longer life span.

“Lung cancer palliative care is appropriate at all stages of the illness, not just during end-of-life care. It is perfectly okay for you to ask for supportive care for lung cancer.”
– American Lung Association

Get Legal Help Paying for Asbestos Lung Cancer Treatment

Treatment for asbestos lung cancer can be emotionally and financially draining. If you or a loved one were diagnosed with lung cancer after being exposed to asbestos, you may be entitled to compensation to help cover your treatment expenses.

Mesothelioma Hope partners with top asbestos lung cancer lawyers who may be able to file legal claims on your behalf. There’s no cost to speak with us, and our legal partners only get paid if they secure compensation for you and your family.

It only takes a few minutes to get started. Get a free asbestos case review or reach out to our team at (866) 608-8933.

Asbestos Cancer of the Lung Life Expectancy FAQs

Can lung cancer be cured completely?

While there isn’t a cure for lung cancer yet, many people have lived long, fulfilling lives after being diagnosed, such as Deborah, a 23-year survivor from Maryland.

Treatment may help increase your lung cancer life expectancy by months or years depending on the type of cancer you have and how far it’s spread.

Can you beat lung cancer?

Beating lung cancer entirely may not be possible for all patients, but advancements in medical treatments have helped increase the chances of long-term survival.

Some lung cancer patients have lived 10 or more years after being diagnosed. Even though these patients still have the illness, if the cancer is not growing or spreading, it can help them live longer and have a better quality of life.

How long do you live with lung cancer in stage 4?

Patients who are diagnosed with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) have an average life expectancy of 4-9 months, while those with stage 4 small cell lung cancer (SCLC) live an average of 8-13 months.

What is the average stage 3 lung cancer life expectancy with treatment?

Treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy can help stage 3 lung cancer patients live longer.

In a 2022 trial, non-small cell lung cancer patients had an average life expectancy of 29 months with chemotherapy and over 47 months with the addition of an immunotherapy drug.

What is the average stage 3 lung cancer life expectancy without treatment?

Without treatment, the average life expectancy for stage 3 lung cancer patients is about 7 months after diagnosis.

Stage 3 asbestos lung cancer patients who decline treatment can get palliative care to help manage their symptoms and improve quality of life. Palliative care for lung cancer may include oxygen therapy, pain medications, and procedures to treat fluid buildup around the lungs.

What is the life expectancy for stage 4 lung cancer that has metastasized?

The average life expectancy for stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer that has spread to other organs is 4-9 months.

For those with small cell lung cancer, the life expectancy is 8-13 months on average.

Laura WrightWritten by:

Lead Editor

Laura Wright is a journalist and content strategist with more than 15 years of professional experience. She attended college at the University of Florida, graduating magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2008. Her writing has been featured in The Gainesville Sun and other regional publications throughout Florida.

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  1. American Cancer Society. “Lung Cancer Survival Rates.” Retrieved January 3, 2024, from
  2. Albadno D., Bilfinger T., Nemesure B. (2018, August 24). “1-, 3-, and 5-year survival among early-stage lung cancer patients treated with lobectomy vs SBRT.” Retrieved January 3, 2024, from–3–and-5-year-survival-among-early-stage-lung-cancer-patients-treat-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-LCTT
  3. Anggondowati, T., Gant A.K., Islam K.M. (August 2020). “Impact of time-to-treatment on overall survival of non-small cell lung cancer patients—an analysis of the national cancer database.” Retrieved January 3, 2024, from
  4. Canadian Cancer Society. (2020). “Survival statistics for small cell lung cancer.” Retrieved January 3, 2024, from
  5. Chi S.A., Yu H., Choi Y.A. (2023, March 16). “Trends in Survival Rates of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer With Use of Molecular Testing and Targeted Therapy in Korea, 2010-2020.” Retrieved January 3, 2024, from
  6. Guo, H., Li H., Zhu L., Feng J., Hung X., Baak J. (2021, December 21.) “‘How Long Have I Got?’ in Stage IV NSCLC Patients With at Least 3 Months Up to 10 Years Survival, Accuracy of Long-, Intermediate-, and Short-Term Survival Prediction Is Not Good Enough to Answer This Question.” Retrieved January 3, 2024, from
  7. Yang P. (2010, September 27). “Epidemiology of Lung Cancer Prognosis: Quantity and Quality of Life.” Retrieved January 3, 2024, from
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