A lung cancer diagnosis can be a life-changing event. However, there are different types of lung cancer, and not all of them have smoking as a direct cause. Discover more about some of the common lung cancer treatments, types, and methods of diagnosis.
Types of Lung Cancer
There are several types of lung cancer and even more subtypes. The two main types are the small cell lung cancer and the non-small cell lung cancer.
Small Cell Lung Cancer
There are two types of small cell lung cancer (SCLC): Combined small cell carcinoma, and oat cell carcinoma. Both types are aggressive, with the ability to grow and spread very quickly.
While combined small cell carcinoma includes both small and large cells, oat cell carcinoma gets its name from consistently small cells that look like oats under a microscope. Both types of SCLC are commonly associated with smoking. It is very rare for non-smokers to develop SCLC.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) makes up about 80 percent of lung cancer cases. It grows and spreads more slowly than SCLC. There are three different subtypes of NSCLC.
- Adenocarcinoma: Found most commonly in the outer regions of the lung, adenocarcinoma usually evolves from the mucosal glands. Smoking is a common contributing factor.
- Squamous cell carcinoma: Usually found next to at least one of the bronchi tubes, squamous cell carcinoma can also develop from smoking. However, it can also result from other types of exposure to harmful chemicals over time.
- Large cell carcinoma: A relatively uncommon type of NSCLC, large-cell carcinoma tends to be aggressive and can spread quickly. Smoking is another common cause.
Pancoast tumors grow in the upper parts of the lung and interfere with parts of the surrounding lung. Although pancoast tumors are rare, they are often associated with being treated for other diseases like lymphoma or tuberculosis.
Lung carcinoid tumors tend to grow more slowly than other types of lung cancer. They are also incredibly rare and relatively easy to treat with lung surgery when presenting on their own.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer symptoms can vary from person to person, depending on if the cancer is in just one part of the lungs, or if it has spread to other parts of the body. Some common symptoms of lung cancer include:
- Cough that keeps getting worse or doesn’t go away
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing up blood
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Unexpected weight loss
Lung Cancer Treatment Options
Your oncologist and cancer care team will discuss the specific type of treatment or combination of treatments they recommend for you. These are some of the most common lung cancer treatments.
Depending on the type, location, and stage of your lung cancer, surgery may be an effective treatment. This is typically an option when your cancer is localized and unlikely to spread, such as with early stages of NSCLC and carcinoid tumors.
Lung cancer surgery typically involves removing the lung tumor along with a margin of tissue around it. Your surgeon may also remove lymph nodes near the tumor to prevent the cancer from spreading further.
Chemotherapy for Lung Cancer
Your cancer care team may use chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer, depending on the type and stage you have.
In many cases, your oncologist may inject chemotherapy for lung cancer through your veins. A single session takes place over several hours as part of a three-week cycle. Depending on the treatment regimen your doctor recommends for your type of lung cancer, you might receive one or more rounds during the three-week cycle.
Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer
Radiation therapy, or radiotherapy, uses radioactive energy to damage harmful lung cancer cells and stop them from growing out of control. It most often targets clusters of cells in one part of the lungs, but it can also target multiple areas if you have multiple areas of cancer cells to destroy.
You may receive external radiation from a machine at the hospital, which is the most common option. Otherwise, your doctor may place radioactive materials directly inside the tumor.
Targeted drug therapy uses medication that targets the proteins and biomarkers on cancer cells to destroy them or stop them from growing. In some cases, they also boost your immune system so it can attack the lung cancer cells more effectively. Most commonly, targeted therapy is administered orally at home with a prescription filled through a specialty pharmacy.
There are multiple FDA-approved types of targeted therapy for lung cancer. Ask your oncologist about the specific types of targeted therapy for which you might be eligible.
Immunotherapy for Lung Cancer
Immunotherapy uses medications that train and strengthen your immune system, allowing it to recognize and kill cancer cells more easily.
The treatment works by allowing or blocking certain proteins in your body from interacting with T cells. This helps the T cells recognize when to trigger an immune response and attack the lung cancer cells. In turn, this shrinks the tumor.
Only certain types of lung cancer may respond to immunotherapy, and it may not be right for every type of lung cancer.
Lung Cancer Treatments at CHC
Lung cancer has many types and causes. That’s why at The Cancer & Hematology Centers, we treat every patient’s cancer diagnosis as a unique, individual case. We offer multiple types of lung cancer treatments, as well as clinical trials and cutting-edge treatments that can help you achieve remission.
Learn More About Lung Cancer Treatment Options
Our team of lung cancer specialists and oncologists is here to help you navigate your diagnosis and treatment. To learn more about our lung cancer treatment options, call 800-411-7999 today.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How Is Lung Cancer Diagnosed?
Most types of lung cancer are first identified with chest X-rays and diagnosed with tissue biopsy, including bronchoscopy-guided biopsies—a long, flexible camera that allows your doctor to see your tumors directly or with an ultrasound to take tissue samples. At the Cancer & Hematology Centers, our oncologists also use imaging tools like CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans to get a clear view of your lungs.
What Are the Early Signs of Lung Cancer?
Some types of lung cancer may not have any symptoms at all in the earliest stages. However, when there are symptoms, they may include shortness of breath, a persistent cough, and blood-stained phlegm or spit. If you experience any of these symptoms, we recommend scheduling a doctor’s appointment as soon as possible.
What Is the Survival Rate of Lung Cancer?
The 5-year relative survival rate for lung cancer depends on the type of cancer you have. However, the survival rate for all types of lung cancer in the United States is roughly 23 percent.
Factors in the prognosis can include the stage of the cancer, the person’s age, their general health, and how their cancer responds to treatment.