How quickly does non-small cell cancer of the lung spread?
Cancer generally, and particularly cancer of the lung, is really heterogeneous in the behavior that there’s not one right response to this. Partly, the solution depends upon your reason for asking.
I frequently see patients with small lung nodules incidentally detected on the CT scan done to many other reason. So many people are very anxious and worry they have cancer of the lung. I let them know there’s two methods to prove the nodule isn’t cancer. The first is to remove it. This involves surgery, including all of the perils of general anesthesia, and removal with a minimum of a part of your lung. Most surgeons won’t do that for any small nodule unless of course there’s reasonable to believe it is cancer. Most (over 99 % in certain studies) of nodules detected with a modern CT scan aren’t cancer, even just in those that smoke.
The 2nd, much safer, and preferred method to prove the nodule isn’t cancer would be to reveal that it doesn’t grow when seen over a number of CT scans. This is where I’m most frequently requested how quickly it might spread whether it were cancer. Current recommendations – which derive from analysis of a large number of patients with small (under 8 mm) lung nodules and which look at the very low likelihood that the small nodule will become an incurable cancer – demand CT scans to become repeated at certain times that rely on how big the nodule and a person’s risk for cancer of the lung.
Bigger nodules (over 2 cm) which are suspicious for cancer of the lung should generally be worked within some definitive way within 8 days of initially being detected. Even this recommendation isn’t based on any certain understanding these "spread" before that period of time, however that a relatively careful evaluation and diagnosis can and ought to be done in this particular time period.
A part of why it’s been so hard to exhibit any adverse health help to cancer of the lung screening is due to the vast variations in behavior in one cancer to a different. Screening may identify cancers that will not spread whatsoever, as the more aggressive cancers have previously spread when they’re apparent on screening studies. This is not proven, but forms the foundation why we have to await the outcomes of huge, well-designed screening trials.