BACKGROUND The number of N2 stations (single vs multiple N2 stations) is an important prognostic factor in patients with completely resected stage IIIA-N2 non-small cell lung cancer. However, the significance of both the N2 station(s) actually involved and the primary tumor location remains unclear. METHODS The database was built with the use of a questionnaire survey on the survival of patients with pathologic stage IIIA-N2 non-small cell lung cancer completely resected between January 1992 and December 1993. The survey was performed by the Japan Clinical Oncology Group as of July 1999. The data include information on the survival and N2 stations of 402 patients. RESULTS A frequently metastasized single N2 station was the lower pretracheal station in primary tumors in the right upper lobe, the subaortic station in the left upper lobe, and the subcarinal station in the right middle or lower lobe and the left lower lobe. In multiple N2 stations, the frequency of metastasis of the N2 station observed in a single N2 station was as high as 72% to 89%, and one or two other frequently metastasized stations were added to each group. Regarding the survival of patients with a primary tumor in each lobe except for the left lower lobe, a single N2 station resulted in a significantly better survival than did multiple N2 stations. Furthermore, the overall survivals classified according to each primary site showed a significant difference among the four primary sites (P =.04). CONCLUSIONS The primary tumors in each lobe showed a prevalence of N2 station(s). The number of N2 stations is a good prognosticator except in patients with a primary tumor in the left lower lobe. In addition, the site of a primary tumor itself is also considered to influence the survival of the patients.