Lung Cancer Information

What is Lung Cancer?

Cancers that begin in the lungs are divided into two major types of lung cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer, depending on how the cells look under a microscope. Each type of lung cancer grows and spreads in different ways and is treated differently. Lung cancer information can be confusing since there are many types of lung cancer.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer is more common than small cell lung cancer, and it generally grows and spreads more slowly. There are 5 types of non-small cell lung cancer.

The 5 types of non-small cell lung cancer have different kinds of cancer cells. The cancer cells of each type of non-small cell lung cancer grow and spread in different ways. The types of non-small cell lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look when viewed under a microscope:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales. This type of lung cancer is also called epidermoid carcinoma.

  • Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in cells that have glandular (secretory) properties.

  • Large cell carcinoma: Cancer in which the cells are large and look abnormal when viewed under a microscope.

  • Adenosquamous carcinoma: Cancer that begins in cells that look flattened when viewed under a microscope. These cells also have glandular (secretory) properties.

  • Undifferentiated carcinoma: Cancer cells that do not look like normal cells and multiply uncontrollably.

Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small cell lung cancer, sometimes called oat cell cancer, is less common than nonsmall cell lung cancer. This type of lung cancer grows more quickly and is more likely to spread to other organs in the body. There are three types of small cell lung cancer.

These three types of small cell lung cancer include many different types of cells. The cancer cells of each type grow and spread in different ways. The types of small cell lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look when viewed under a microscope:

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

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