The Three Types of Lung Cancer

Reviewed: July 21, 2016
By eHealthIQ
The Three Types of Lung Cancer

Bronchogenic carcinomas, more commonly known as lung cancer, manifests in three different forms. There are small cell lung cancers (SCLC), non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC), and lung carcinoid tumors. These classifications are based on the appearance of the tumor cells underneath a microscope. All of the types of lung cancers spread, grow, and are treated differently. The differentiation between all three types is extremely important for treatment, classification, and recovery.

Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small cell lung cancer makes up about 10% of all bronchogenic carcinomas. It is the most deadly kind because of its aggression and ability to spread rapidly. Their ability to metastasize quickly to many different parts of the body makes it hard to find before they spread out. This is also the kind of lung cancer most associated with smoking cigarettes.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

This kind of lung cancer is the most common, accounting for about 85%. This classification is divided into three separate types, all evolving from different cell types. They are all grouped together because of their similarity in treatment and prognosis. The three types are adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and large cell carcinomas.

The most common type of non-small cell lung cancer is adenocarcinoma. They make 40% of all recorded lung cancer cases. This is another type commonly associated with smoking, but it is also quite common in non-smoking women. It generally grows in the outer lung areas, spreading from there to the lymph nodes and possibly beyond if not treated. Sometimes, this cancer resembles pneumonia in a chest X-ray. The prognosis from this kind of lung cancer is usually better than the rest.

Squamous cell carcinomas used to be more commonly found than adenocarcinomas, but now they comprise only 25% of all cases. They are also reffered to as epidermoid carcinomas. These cancers develop close to the center of the chest, in the bronchi.

The third type, large cell carcinomas, are the least common type of non-small cell lung cancer. They are also known as undifferentiated carcinomas and accounting for about 10% of all types of lung cancers.

Lung Carcinoid Tumors

This type of lung cancer is the least common of all types of lung cancer. Also referred to as lung carcinoids, these tumors can begin in any part of the lungs. It is only considered to be cancerous when the tumor begins to grow out of control. Affected cells can also become cancerous and begin to spread to the rest of the body. This type of lung cancer is highly uncommon and grows very slowly, more slowly than any other kind. They are made of neuroendocrine cells, which control air and blood flow through the lungs. They also help individuals detect oxygen levels and relay information to the brain to help the lungs adjust accordingly.

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