What Are the Types of Lung Cancer?

Reviewed on 5/20/2021

Lung cancer occurs when lung cells become abnormal and grow out of control. The main types of lung cancer include non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and small cell lung cancer.
Lung cancer occurs when lung cells become abnormal and grow out of control. The main types of lung cancer include non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), squamous cell carcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and small cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer is a type of cancer that occurs when lung cells become abnormal and grow out of control. 

The main types of lung cancer include:

Other types of tumors that can form in the lungs include: 

  • Lung carcinoid tumors, which account for fewer than 5% of lung tumors
  • Other lung tumors: adenoid cystic carcinomas, lymphomas, and sarcomas, and benign lung tumors such as hamartomas are rare
  • Cancers that originate in other organs such as the breast, pancreas, kidney, or skin can spread (metastasize) to the lungs, but these are not lung cancers

What Are Symptoms of Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer may not have any symptoms in the early stages. When symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • Persistent or worsening cough
  • Breathing problems
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored sputum
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Chest pain that may be worse with deep breathing, coughing, or laughing
  • Fatigue/tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Respiratory infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or come back

If lung cancer spreads (metastasizes) to other parts of the body, symptoms may include:

What Causes Lung Cancer?

The main cause of all types of lung cancer is smoking, which accounts for 80% of all lung cancer deaths, as well as a number of deaths from exposure to secondhand smoke. Smokers exposed to radon and asbestos are at higher risk. 

In non-smokers, causes of lung cancer include:

  • Secondhand smoke exposure
  • Air pollution
  • Workplace exposure to asbestos, diesel exhaust, or other chemicals 
  • Exposure to radon
  • Genetic changes

QUESTION

Lung cancer is a disease in which lung cells grow abnormally in an uncontrolled way. See Answer

How Is Lung Cancer Diagnosed?

Symptoms of lung cancer usually do not appear until the cancer is advanced. For this reason, The American Cancer Society has lung cancer screening guidelines for people with a higher risk of developing lung cancer, such as smokers. 

People who should receive regular lung cancer screenings include people who are:

  • 55 to 74 years old
  • in fairly good health
  • Are current smokers or who have quit in the past 15 years and have smoked a certain number of cigarettes per day should receive regular lung cancer screenings
  • A test called a low-dose CAT scan or CT scan (LDCT) is typically used. 
  • If lung cancer is suspected, imaging tests may be used to confirm a diagnosis, such as:
  • Chest X-ray
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Bone scan

Lab tests used to diagnose lung cancer include:

  • Blood tests
  • Lung function tests
  • Sputum cytology 
  • Thoracentesis 
  • Tissue biopsy 
  • Bronchoscopy masses
  • Endoscopic esophageal ultrasound
  • Endobronchial ultrasound 
  • Mediastinoscopy and mediastinotomy
  • Thoracoscopy
  • Molecular tests for gene changes 
  • Tests for certain proteins on tumor cells

What Is the Treatment for Lung Cancer?

Treatment for lung cancer depends on the stage, and may include:

  • Surgery
    • Removal of the tumor (stage 0)
    • Removal of the lobe of the lung that has the tumor (lobectomy) or removal of a smaller piece of the lung (sleeve resection, segmentectomy, or wedge resection) (Stage 1)
    • Lobectomy or sleeve resection or removal of the entire lung (pneumonectomy) (Stage 2 and later stages)
  • Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
  • Laser therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) 
  • Lymph node removal
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Immunotherapy 
  • Targeted therapy
  • Participation in clinical trials

Stage IV lung cancers have spread widely (metastasized) and can be difficult to treat and cure. Any of the treatments listed above may be used to help patients live longer, but they are unlikely to cure the disease at this late stage. 

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Reviewed on 5/20/2021
References
https://www.cancer.org/cancer/lung-cancer.html

https://www.lungcancer.org/find_information/publications/163-lung_cancer_101/268-types_and_staging