About lung cancer
Lung cancer is the second most common type of cancer among both men and women in the United States (not counting skin cancer). It’s also the leading cause of cancer deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 4 cancer deaths are from lung cancer. Men have a slightly higher chance of developing lung cancer than women.
Scripps MD Anderson Cancer Center provides a full range of services to diagnose, treat and prevent lung cancer.
Types of lung cancer
There are three main types of lung cancer. Each type has its own risk factors and treatment approaches.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
About 85% of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancer, making it the most common type of lung cancer. There are several subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer that start from different types of lung cells, but their prognosis and treatment are similar. The most common subtypes are adenocarcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and large cell carcinomas.
Adenocarcinomas start in early versions of the cells that secrete substances (such as mucus) and represent about 40% of lung cancers. This subtype mainly affects current or former smokers, but is also the most common type of lung cancer in non-smokers. It affects more women than men, and is more common in young people than other types of cancer.
Squamous cell (epidermoid) carcinomas
Squamous cell carcinomas start in early versions of flat cells that line the airways in the lungs (called squamous cells). They make up about 25% to 30% of all lung cancers. Usually found in the central part of the lungs near a main airway, these cancers are often associated with a history of cigarette smoking.
Large cell carcinoma
Large cell carcinoma occurs anywhere in the lungs and makes up about 10% to 15% of lung cancers. It tends to grow and spread quickly. Large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma is a subtype of this cancer type.
Small cell lung cancer
Small cell lung cancer makes up 10% to 15% of lung cancers and is most commonly associated with cigarette smoking. There are two subtypes of small cell lung cancer: small cell carcinomas and combined small cell carcinomas.
Small cell carcinoma
Also known as “oat-cell” cancer, small cell carcinoma is called such because the cells look like oats under the microscope. It often starts in the airways of the lungs and quickly spreads.
Combined small cell carcinoma
Combined small cell carcinomas contain both small cell carcinomas and non-small cell carcinomas.
Lung carcinoid tumor
Lung carcinoid tumors, also called lung neuroendocrine tumors, make up fewer than 5% of lung cancers. They’re composed of neuroendocrine cells, which are found throughout the body and make hormones and similar substances. In the lungs, neuroendrocrine cells may help the lungs adjust to the amounts of oxygen and carbon dioxide a person breathes in. Usually, lung carcinoid tumors are slow-growing and rarely spread.