Lung cancer can simply be defined as the unrestrained growth of abnormal cells in the lung. These cells are reproduced wildly without regard for function or shape of the lung, and as a result this may lead to formation of tumors which end up clogging the lung stopping it from functioning well. Cancer may grow for many years without causing any suspicion, therefore going undetected because of the large size of the lung. But this doesn’t mean that there will be no symptoms. The common symptom is a persistent cough which can be mistaken for bronchitis. Others include; fatigue, shortness of breath, repeated pneumonia, traces of blood in the cough, hoarseness, and swelling of the face including neck.
There are two main types of lung cancer that affect both men and women. Namely;
- Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)
- Small-Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
Note that each one of these two types is unique in the way the cancer cells grow and spread within the patient’s body.
Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer
When you compare the two cancer types, you’ll realize that the more common one is NSCLC. Statistics show that this cancer type is attributed to approximately 85% of all the cases found. The speed at which it grows and spreads is slower than that of SCLC. NSCLC is divided into three sub-types each having its own unique cancer cells.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (epidermoid carcinoma): This sub type is accountable to approximately 25-30% of all the cases. The thin and flat cells similar to fish scales line the interior of the lung, then gradually spreads to the centre of the patient’s lung where squamous cell is situated.
Adenocaricinoma: This cancer is attributed to approximately 35-40% of all the cases found. Mainly associated a lot with smokers, even non-smokers risk this condition as well. It starts in the cells which have glandular properties, growing slowly to the exterior of the lungs. Adenocaricinoma is more common in women than in men, and is also more likely to attack a younger person. Patients with this cancer sub type usually have a better life expectancy (prognosis).
Large Cell/ Undifferentiated Carcinoma attributes to approximately 10-15% of all the cancer cases. The cells multiply quickly making the cancer grow and spread very fast. When viewed with the aid of a microscope, you’ll notice that the cells have an abnormal look compared to the other cancer cell types.
Sarcomatoid Carcinoma and Adenosquamous Carcinoma are also NSCLC. But these are rarely found in a patient.
Small-Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
Compared to NSCLC, Small Cell Cancer is less common and only accounts to about 10-15% of all the cases found. It grows and also spreads faster than the other types of cancer cells. SCLC is further divided into three sub types;
Small Cell Carcinoma, also known as oat cell carcinoma: This is an extremely malignant cancer usually found in the lung, including other organs of the human body as well. For example the prostate, cervix, and gastrointestinal tract.
Mixed Small/Large Cell Carcinoma: This is indeed the rarest form of lung cancer. When this sub-type is diagnosed, it is formed from both the large-cell carcinoma and the oat cell cancer.
Combined Small Cell Carcinoma: it is detected when a malevolent tumor is seen arising from lung tissues. This SCLC sub type contains small cell carcinoma blended with a single or more components of non-small cell carcinoma.
Lung cancer treatment depends on the type and spread of the cancer cells. Early stages of NSCLC diagnosis can be treated with surgery. Chemotherapy or radiation can also be used so as to slow down further growth of cancerous cells and also help relieve the symptoms. Radiation therapy is the best approach for patients who cannot undergo surgery because of their medical conditions. In any case the cancer cells multiplied reaching the lymph nodes or around in the nearby tissues, radiation is recommended for NSCLC treatment. SCLC is manly treated with chemotherapy, and in some cases, chemo is combined with either surgery or radiation.
To determine the cancer a person has, samples of the tumor are surgically taken out of the lungs, and then tested. Lymph nodes may also be included in this exercise to determine the existence of cancer in them. Treatment will begin as soon as the cancer type is determined.