The truth about lung cancer is that there are many different types of lung cancer; it is not just one disease with one treatment method. Lung cancers are broadly designated into two types that are further broken down into a specific subtype. It’s important for newly diagnosed lung cancer patients to understand the different types of lung cancer as it will affect both treatment options and prognosis.

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

Small Cell Lung Cancer

The two general types of small cell lung cancer include:

  • Small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer)
  • Combined small cell carcinoma

Smoking tobacco is the major risk factor for developing small cell lung cancer.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Each year in the United States, more than 226,000 people are diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. There are several different types of this cancer.

The three main types of non-small cell lung cancer include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (epidermoid carcinoma)
  • Large cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma

Other less common types of non-small cell lung cancer are pleomorphic, carcinoid tumor, salivary gland carcinoma, and unclassified carcinoma.

Smoking can increase the risk of developing non-small cell lung cancer. It's important to be aware of the factors that can increase your lung cancer risk so that you make informed decisions about your lifestyle and habits. Learn more about the risk factors for developing lung cancer.

Other Types of Lung Tumors

There are other types of cancerous tumors that can occur in the lungs. Typically, these are not treated as lung cancer just because the tumor is in the lungs. These other types of tumors include:

  • Lung carcinoid tumors. These tumors develop in the neuroendocrine cells, a special kind of cell found in the lungs. This cancer type is often found in younger than average lung cancer patients.
  • Mesothelioma. This is a rare form of cancer that starts in the thin tissue that lines the lungs and abdomen, called mesothelium. This type of lung cancer is linked to asbestos exposure. 
  • Rare tumors like adenoid cystic carcinomas, sarcomas, lymphomas, and hamartomas (benign lung tumors).
  • Cancers that spread to the lungs. Sometimes, cancer that starts in another organ can metastasize to the lungs. Keep in mind that cancers like this are not considered lung cancer— they are considered to be a cancer of the organ in which it originated and would be treated as such.  

Lung Cancer Treatment Available at Compass Oncology

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a type of lung cancer, our oncologists are here to help guide you through your journey. We take the time to discuss all of the treatment options available to you based on your lung cancer stage and type. Our cancer centers are located across the Portland and Vancouver area. Find a location near you to request an appointment with our oncologists to discuss personalized lung cancer treatment plans. Second opinions on diagnosis and treatment options are also available. 

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