Types of Lung Cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer, Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC).

  • NSCLC - Most lung cancers, about 85 to 90 percent, are NSCLC. There are three types of NSCLC: Squamous cell carcinoma, Adenocarcinoma, and Large cell carcinoma.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is typically seen in individuals that smoke and usually begins in the bronchi.
  • Adenocarcinoma is typically seen in individuals that are non-smokers. It is usually found in the outer part of the lungs and in most cases is a slow growing tumor.
  • Large cell carcinoma may be found in any part of the lung. This type of lung cancer is fast growing and generally quick to spread to other parts of the body. Of all the types of NSCLC, this is the least common.
  • SCLC (Oat cell)- SCLC only accounts for 10 to 15 percent of all lung cancers. When compared to NSCLC, SCLC is faster growing and typically quick to spread to other areas of the body. Spread often occurs very early in SCLC. This type of lung cancer is generally seen in individuals that smoke.

Routes of Spread

Lung cancer normally will spread to lymph nodes in the chest. Often, it spreads to the ones located in the center of the chest, known as the mediastinal lymph nodes. Lymph nodes in the lower portion of the neck may also be affected. In late stages of lung cancer, spread may occur to other areas of the body, such as the brain or liver.

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