Turning gray: the natural history of lung cancer over time

J Thorac Oncol. 2008 Jul;3(7):781-92. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e31817c9230.


As newer therapies for lung cancer are being explored it becomes more important to understand the natural history of lung cancer. A systematic review of the data shows that untreated lung cancer is almost uniformly rapidly fatal, even if it is stage I. Analysis of data regarding tumor volume doubling times shows that conventionally detected lung cancers have short mean doubling times, and only a small proportion with very long doubling times. Lung cancers found during the course of a CT screening program have markedly longer mean doubling times and a substantially greater proportion with very long doubling times (>400 days). Models of tumor growth, however, are not understood well enough to use the observed doubling time to predict length of survival without treatment.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate