Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Information
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What Is Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer?
The two main types of lung cancer are non-small lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). NSCLC accounts for over 80 percent of all lung cancers.
The lungs are spongy tissues made up of a network of tubes (bronchi) that feed into tiny air sacs (alveoli). As you breathe, air travels down your windpipe (trachea) and into the bronchi, which then moves the air through smaller tubes (bronchioles), filling the air sacs.
Here, oxygen is taken up by a system of tiny blood vessels that run through the alveoli. Carbon dioxide moves out of these tiny blood vessels into the air sacs, and is squeezed out when we exhale. Cancer may develop in any of these parts, but most lung cancers originate in the bronchi, or the tubes that transfer air from the trachea into the bronchioles.
The development of lung cancer may occur over the course of a number of years, and abnormal areas within the lungs may be present long before any symptoms occur. As the areas become cancerous, new blood vessels surround tumors, allowing them to grow.
Types of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. 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.
There are three main subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer: squamous cell, adenocarcinoma and large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma.
Adenocarcinomas 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 more common in women than men, is the most frequent type of lung cancer found in non-smokers and is also the most common type found in people under the age of 45. Though adenocarcinoma can form in the lungs of non-smokers, smoking is still one of the leading risk factors for developing this type of lung cancer.
Typically located in the outer region of the lung, adenocarcinoma can be present for a long period of time before it is detected. Due to the location of the disease, common symptoms such as a persistent cough or coughing up blood may not occur until the cancer is in an advanced stage.
Like most forms of cancer, adenocarcinoma can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body, including the local lymph nodes, bones, liver, adrenal glands and other locations. Out of all lung cancer types, adenocarcinoma is the most likely to remain in one part of the body.
The survival rate for people with adenocarcinoma is about 15 percent after five years, but that number increases when the disease is detected at an early stage.
Squamous Cell Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
This type of lung cancer is responsible for about 30 percent of all non-small cell lung cancers, and is found centrally in the lung where the larger bronchi join the trachea to the lung, or in one of the main airway branches. Squamous cell carcinoma is generally linked to smoking, and is more prevalent in men than women.
Cases of squamous cell carcinoma of the lungs have been decreasing in recent years, while adenocarcinoma diagnoses have increased. Some suspect that this change is due to the filters that have been added to cigarettes, allowing people to inhale smoke deeper into the lungs.
Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are all squamous cell non-small cell lung cancer treatment options. Due to the slow-growing nature of the disease as well as the location, this type of lung cancer is often found earlier than others.
The five-year survival rate for squamous cell carcinoma is about 15 percent, and can increase if the disease is caught early and the tumor can be removed. However, even though surgery or other treatments may have been successful in the beginning, this type of lung cancer can often return, as the cancer cells can spread without being immediately detected.
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. NSCLC, large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma tends to grow and spread quickly. Therefore, it can be more difficult to treat this type of lung cancer. At Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA), our cutting-edge technology allows us to create an individualized treatment plan for any type of cancer diagnosis, including advanced and complex cases.
The tumors associated with large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma are often diagnosed by default after all other possibilities have been ruled out. Though these tumors grow quickly and metastasize often, they are not considered a form of small cell lung cancer, due to the fact that the cell size is larger. Large-cell undifferentiated carcinoma is strongly associated with smoking.