Lung cancer, as the name suggests, develop as abnormal cells in or on the tissues of one or both lungs. According to the American Lung Association, roughly 541,000 americans are currently living with lung cancer. While approximately 234,030 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed yearly, accounting for about 13% of total U.S. cancer cases.
There are a many different types of lung cancer tumors, including:
1. Small cell lung cancers (SCLC)
SCLC comprises roughly 15% of all lung cancer diagnosis, and remains the most quick growing and aggressive form of all lung cancers, with metastasis occurring quickly and spreading to other bodily tissues and organs. The majority of SCLC cases are caused by smoking (i.e., cigarettes or pipe tobacco).
2. Non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC)
NSCLC makes up roughly 85% of all U.S. lung cancer diagnosis, making it the most prevalent lung cancer in the U.S. However, NSCLC is made up of 3 cancer subtypes, depending upon the specific cells that make up the tumor, or mass. The subtypes of NSCLC include:
- Squamous cell carcinomas: Also known as epidermoid carcinomas, these account for approximately 30% of NSCLC cases and tend to develop in the center of the chest, in the lung bronchi, mostly contained to the lung itself and forming a large gaping crater, before spreading to the nearby lymph nodes.
- Large cell carcinomas: Also referred to as undifferentiated carcinomas, are considered the rarest form of NSCLC, making up only 15% of NSCLC cases. This fast metastasizing cancer cancer often spreads quickly to other bodily areas (i.e., organs and lymph nodes).
- Adenocarcinomas: Is considered the most prevalent form of NSCLC, making up 40% of lung cancer diagnosis. Adenocarcinomas often appear as pneumonia on x-rays and often develop in the tissues of the outer lungs or along alveolar walls, before metastasizing to nearby organs and lymph nodes. While this type of cancer is often linked to smoking, it’s also found in non-smoking patients, particularly female patients.
Treatments for lung cancer will largely depend on the main type and cancer subtype. Common treatments include:
- Raditiation: Enlists the power of x-rays to kill and eliminate cancer cells by directing intense rays at the tumor area.
- Chemotherapy: These medications (i.e., oral or intravenous) destroy malignant cells inside the lung, and prevent further cancer cell growth and division. Treatment is conducted in chemo rounds, which are recommended for a series of days or weeks, followed by a period of rest.
- Lung cancer surgery: Often recommended for lung cancers that haven’t yet spread. Surgical oncologists will remove cancerous tissues before they spread beyond the lung.