Types of Lung Cancer

Lung cancers are generally divided into 2 types:

Non-small cell lung cancer

This type is much more common than small cell lung cancer, accounting for about 85% to 90% of lung cancers. The 3 main kinds of non-small cell lung cancer are named for the type of cells in the tumor:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (also called epidermoid carcinoma): It often begins in the bronchi near the middle of the lungs.
  • Adenocarcinoma: This type usually begins along the outer edges of the lungs. It is the most common type of lung cancer in people who have never smoked.
  • Large cell carcinomas: These are a group of cancers with large, abnormal-looking cells. These tumors may begin anywhere in the lungs and tend to grow quickly.

Small cell lung cancer

This type is sometimes called oat cell cancer because the cancer cells may look like oats when viewed under a microscope, grows rapidly and quickly spreads to other organs. There are two stages of small cell lung cancer:

  • Limited: In this stage, cancer is generally found in only one lung. There may also be cancer in nearby lymph nodes on the same side of the chest.
  • Extensive: In this stage, cancer has spread beyond the primary tumor in the lung into other parts of the body.

Your physician will be able to identify which type of lung cancer you have after his assessment and work up. It is important to find out what kind of lung cancer a person has. The different types of carcinomas, involving different regions of the lung, may cause different symptoms and are treated differently.