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Limited or Extensive? Confused!


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Hi everybody,

A newbie here and new to recently being diagnosed with sclc located, to date, in my left lung.(2 nodules upper and lower)  I was under the impression that i had limited stage, but after some research and other opinions (including my oncologist)  am confused as to what exactly i do have.  My oncologist said extensive and then after i questioned him about it,  he seemed to question his initial thought and was double checking stats on his computer.  Of course i will ask him again, but thought i would ask the question on here in hopes that maybe someone could clarify for me sooner.  Or if there's even a simple explanation of what determines each.  I did read that with small cell there are only two stages, limited or extensive?

I was of the opinion that if the cancer had not spread outside of the initial starting area, which is the case so far, that it was diagnosed as limited and extensive only if it had spread to other organs. Does anyone know the answer to this??

Thanks, in advance... 

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Welcome here and sorry to learn of your Dx.

In small cell staging, what is limited and what is extensive?  Limited stage is generally defined as a tumor in one lung and spreading only to the area between the lungs or in the lymph nodes above the collar bone. Extensive stage lung cancer is that which is spread widely in a single lung (many tumors), is found in both lungs, or spreading to distant lymph nodes or other organs.

Normally, generally or usually, staging is only of use in designing a treatment plan.  Either stage is significant disease but sometimes limited stage can be treated with surgery.  Extensive stage cannot. So your oncologist is perhaps considering the two nodules in your left lung as the rationale for characterizing as extensive stage.

One thing that was very helpful to me while in treatment was obtaining and keeping all scan reports.  While the language is sometimes difficult to discern, sometimes the radiologist will discuss rationale for staging. When you return for your next consultation, ask his nurse for paper copies of all scan and test reports and start a file.  Here is some other information you may find helpful as you proceed down the diagnostic and treatment trails.

Stay the course.


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Thanks for the welcome and kind words. , i'm happy to have found this website with such a great bunch of people! Thank you, so much, Tom for sharing what you know.  This has been so confusing for me and of course, like so many of us, a lot to deal with unexpectedly.  I will do as you suggest in getting copies, excellent idea.  Will be checking out the link you gave when done with this post, thank you for that.

God Bless...


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