The lung cancer stages depend on whether the cancer cells are large or small. For small cell, there are just two stages, the limited stage and the extensive stage. The main difference in these is that the cancer spreads from the affected lung to other tissues. For large cell cancer in the lung, it is totally different. There are nine different stages of large cell lung cancer. The first is the "occult stage". This simply means that cancer is found in the sputum, but not in the lungs themselves.
The rest of the early lung cancer stages starts with IA to IB. These are categorized by how far the cancer has spread. The rest of the stages then accumulates with the end result, or stage, being number IV. This is where the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, such as the brain, heart, liver, bone or other organs of the body. The tumor may be of any size. Some cancer cells may be in the neck. The fourth stage is the ultimate level of cancer, and death is not far away.