Lung cancer, also referred to as bronchogenic carcinoma, has the highest death rate of any cancer for both men and women in the United States. There are different risk factors for developing lung cancer, but the majority of those who get the disease are current or former smokers. Other contributing factors include exposure to carcinogens or pollution, as well as a family history of the disease. Generally, the first stages of the disease do not cause symptoms that are apparent. As the disease progresses, symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath are commonly reported. Lung cancer is divided into subtypes that include small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancers.
Small Cell Lung Cancer
Small cell lung cancer, also known as oat cell cancer or small cell carcinoma, accounts for about 10-15% of lung cancers. This form of the disease grows and spreads quickly. With the lack of symptoms in early stages, this means it often spreads to other parts of the body before it is found. In general, small cell lung cancer is found in patients who were or are heavy smokers.
Non-small Cell Lung Cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer refers to various subtypes of lung cancer that have similar approaches to treatment and prognosis, though they have different chemical make-ups. All of the subtypes grouped together account for between 85-90% of lung cancer cases. Subtypes include:
- Squamous cell carcinoma
This subtype, which accounts for about 25% of lung cancers, starts in squamous cells. Squamous cells are flat cells that line the inside of the airways of the lungs. Generally linked to a history of smoking, the cancerous cells tend to be found in the middle of the lungs.
The most common form of lung cancer found in non-smokers, the cancer starts in cells that secrete mucus. It is also common in former smokers. Patients with this diagnosis tend to have a better prognosis, as the cancer grows more slowly than other versions. It is more common in women than men, usually found in outer parts of the lung, and is the most likely form to be found before it spreads to other parts of the body.
- Large cell carcinoma
This subtype can appear in any part of the lung, but grows and spreads quickly. This can make early diagnosis and treatment difficult. It functions similarly to small cell lung cancer.
Treatment options vary for each subtype of lung cancer, but our surgeons use video assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) effectively, regardless of type.