The Faces of Lung Cancer

In this article, you will find basic information about different types of lung cancer.


Roland Schäfli

Anne Jäkel

Nur Barlasakli


The Different Types of Lung Cancer

The different types of lung cancer are handled quite differently. Obviously, your lungs would be the primary site for lung cancer. These cancers generally begin in the bronchial and lung-related cell layers, such as the bronchioles and alveoli. One of the reasons why lung cancer is so difficult to detect at an early stage is the misleading symptoms, even though tumors in the lungs can grow to be quite large before giving any symptoms. But because early symptoms may mimic a cold or another typical sickness, most people don’t visit a doctor right away.

Non-small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

NSCLC is the most common form of lung cancer, accounting for more than 80% of cases. Adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma are the three main types of NSCLC. Because their therapy and outlook are comparable, these subtypes, which originate from different types of lung cells, can be grouped together as NSCLC.

Adenocarcinoma is the most frequent type of lung cancer in current or former smokers (although it may also happen in persons who don’t smoke). Adenocarcinoma is more common in females and is more likely to occur in those under the age of 60 years. It typically begins in cells that normally secrete mucus. Adenocarcinoma is generally located on the outer surface of the lung and is more likely to be detected early when it has not yet spread.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma originates in flat (squamous) cells, which line the interior of the airways in the lungs. Often associated with smoking, they occur in the center of the lungs, near a major airway (bronchus).

Large Cell Carcinoma can develop in any part of the lung and is prone to rapid growth and dissemination, making it more difficult to treat.

Other uncommon subtypes of NSCLC include adenosquamous carcinoma and sarcomatoid carcinoma.

Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)

SCLC is a type of lung cancer that affects approximately 10% to 15% of all lung cancers. Sometimes known as oat cell cancer, it has a worse prognosis than NSCLC. SCLC grows and spreads faster than NSCLC. At the time of diagnosis, around 70% of those with SCLC have advanced cancer that has already spread. Because this disease develops so rapidly, it tends to respond well to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. But, unfortunately, for most individuals, the disease will return at some point.

Other Types

Other malignant tumors can develop in the lungs, alongside the most common types. Carcinoid tumors of the lung are extremely rare and account for less than 5% of all lung malignancies. These cells tend to grow slowly.

There are other cancers that begin in different parts of the body (such as the breast, pancreas, kidney, or skin) and they can sometimes metastasize (spread) to the lungs, although they are not lung cancers. For example, cancer that starts in the breast and spreads to the lungs is still breast cancer rather than lung cancer.

Another type of lung cancer is mesothelioma. It’s most commonly linked to asbestos exposure.


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