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Lung cancer types

There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small lung cancer (NSCLC). Non-small cell and small cell lung cancers are classified according to cell size and type. NSCLC accounts for nearly nine out of every 10 cases.

SCLC tends to be more aggressive and spread more rapidly than NSCLC. Therefore, your treatment options will be different, depending on which type of lung cancer you have.

cancer types

Non-small cell lung cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for nearly nine out of every 10 cases and usually grows at a slower rate than SCLC. There are three main types of non-small cell lung cancer:

  • Squamous cell: This type of lung cancer is found centrally in the lung and is generally linked to smoking. This type of lung cancer is responsible for about 30 percent of all non-small cell lung cancers. It is found centrally in the lung where the larger bronchi join the trachea to the lung or in one of the main airway branches.

    Treatment options for squamous cell lung cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. There are various surgical methods. A scalpel is used to remove the growth in excisional surgery. A tool called a curette and a heated needle is used for curettage and electrodesiccation. Liquid nitrogen is used to freeze off the growth in cryosurgery.

  • Adenocarcinoma: This type of non-small cell lung cancer is the most common form of lung cancer, accounting for 30-35 percent of all cases overall and about half of all non-small cell lung cancer occurrences. Adenocarcinoma is found in the outer region of the lung.

    Surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy also are treatment options for adenocarcinoma. Surgery is generally recommended if your cancer is located only in your lungs. Video-assisted thoracic surgery allows surgeons to remove tissue through smaller incisions than traditional surgical methods.

  • Large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma: Large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma lung cancer grows and spreads quickly and can be found anywhere in the lung. This type of lung cancer usually accounts for 10-15 percent of all cases. Large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma tends to grow and spread quickly.

    Treatment options for undifferentiated carcinoma include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy and targeted therapy. Because this type of NSCLC can grow quickly, more aggressive approaches may be needed.

We're here to guide you through the cancer journey

We understand you may be feeling overwhelmed with questions and concerns about your type of cancer and what it all means. We're here to help guide you through the process.

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Our experts answer frequently asked questions about lung cancer.

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