Types of Lung Cancer

Types of Lung Cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer, small cell and non-small cell lung cancer.  Lung cancers are divided in this way according to how they are managed and respond to treatment.

About 15% of lung cancers are classified as small cell so named because these cancers, when looked at under the microscope, consist of small round cells.  The cells are rapidly growing and quickly spread to outside the lungs.  Small cell lung cancer is more responsive to chemotherapy than other lung cancers but can rarely, except in its very earliest stages, be removed by surgery.

The majority of lung cancers, around 80% are called non-small cell lung cancers, these lung cancers respond differently to treatment than small cell cancers.  If diagnosed at an early stage, surgery is a treatment option.   Non-small cell lung cancers can be further divided into adenocarcinomas, squamous cell and large cell carcinomas, according to how the cells look through a microscope.

Other forms of lung cancer are less common.  Mesothelioma is a type of lung cancer that affects the membranes lining the outer surface of the lung and the inside of the chest wall; it is commonly associated with asbestos exposure.  Carcinoid tumours are rare but can develop in the lungs, they are formed from cells of the neuroendocrine system, which make hormones, or messengers, controlling how other organs in the body work.