Understanding Different Types of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer can be classified into two types and is diagnosed based on your symptoms and a comprehensive lung cancer screening. Understanding what type of lung cancer you have can make it easier to manage your symptoms and get the right type of treatment. Both types of lung cancer grow and spread very rapidly and in different ways, and each one has its own set of unique characteristics.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of lung cancer or there is a history of lung cancer in the family, set up a screening with your family physician as soon as possible. Your physician can determine what type of lung cancer you have and recommend a treatment to manage its effects.

Small Cell Lung Cancers (SCLC)

Approximately 20 percent of lung cancers are small cell lung cancers. SCLC are linked to cigarette smoking and can spread very quickly to several different sites within the body. Some doctors refer to SCLC as oat cell carcinomas because of the size of the cell type. The three different types of small cell lung cancer include:

  • Small cell carcinoma (also called oat cell cancer)
  • Mixed small cell/large cell carcinoma
  • Combined small cell carcinoma

This type of lung cancer is very rare in people who have never smoked and is considered to be the most aggressive type of lung cancer. People with SCLC typically experience breathing problems in the center of their chest, weight loss, shortness of breath and a loss of appetite. Over time, they may also experience hoarseness, have difficulty swallowing, facial swelling and frequent fevers.

Small cell lung cancers can be detected by several tests including chest x-rays, liver function tests, MRIs, bone scans and PET scans.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancers (NSCLC)

Non-small cell lung cancers spread much more slowly than small cell lung cancers and are the most common type of lung cancer. The three different forms of NSCLC are:

  • Adenocarcionmas
  • Squamos cell carcinomas
  • Large cell carcinomas

Non-small cell lung cancers can also be caused by smoking but many people develop this type of lung cancer when they have been exposed to asbestos, certain types of paints, and products that contain chloride and formaldehyde. Some of the common symptoms of non-small cell lung cancers are a cough that doesn’t go away, wheezing, loss of appetite, fatigue and weight loss. Many people with NSCLC also experience joint pain, weakness, bone pain, hoarseness and severe should pain.

This type of cancer can be detected with chest x-rays, a CT scan, bone scnas, MRIs and PET scans. Some physicians prefer to do a biopsy to examine some lung tissue under a microscope. The physician can then determine how big the tumor is and which of the five stages the cancer is in.

If you think you may have SCLC or NSCLC, schedule a lung cancer screening with your physician as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to complete a thorough exam and ensure determine how far the cancer has spread within the body.