At Stony Brook University Cancer Center, our team of experts specialize in lung cancer care. We provide comprehensive diagnosis and multidisciplinary treatment for the following cancers:
About 87 percent of patients with lung cancer have a type called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). It starts when certain cells, called epithelial cells of the lungs become cancerous and begin multiplying at accelerated rates, and has the potential to rapidly spread throughout the body.
At the local level, the out-of-control growth of these cancerous cells creates a tumor. NSCLC may be treated with surgery or radiation alone in the early stages, and often involves chemotherapy and radiation in the later stages.
There are three subtypes of NSCLC. They arise from three specific types of cancer cells that start in different areas of the lungs:
- Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of NSCLC. It usually starts in the cells of the small airways and alveoli, which are the tiny air sacs in the lungs, which exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide from the blood. When these cells become malignant, they form glandular cells and secrete mucus.
- Squamous cell carcinoma is the second most common type of NSCLC and forms in thin, flat cells called squamous cells. These cells line the bronchial tubes in the center of the lungs.
- Large cell carcinoma consists of multiple tumor subtypes. It generally lacks the features of squamous cell and adenocarcinoma. It represents 2 to 3 percent of lung cancers, often peripherally located in the lung, and occurs more often in men.
In addition to the three types of NSCLC listed above, there are numerous subcategories characterized by specific genetic mutations within the cancer cells. With the growing field of personalized medicine, special treatments can be designed to target specific cancer cells.
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC), is a highly aggressive cancer that is closely associated with tobacco smoking. It is also classified as a neuroendocrine tumor due to the cell type of origin, and accounts for about 13 percent of lung cancers. It begins in cells that surround the bronchi, which are the two air tubes that lead from the trachea, or windpipe, to the lungs. As with NSCLC, the cells become abnormal, start to grow uncontrollably, and eventually create cancerous tumors. SCLC often spreads quickly to other parts of the body, so this cancer is most often discovered after it has already spread. SCLC is most often treated with chemotherapy.
There are two main types of small cell lung cancer. These two types include many different kinds of cells. The cancer cells of each type grow and spread in different ways. The types of small cell lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look when viewed under a microscope:
- Small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer) Oat cell and small cell are used interchangeably, since “oat cell” was a name given to reflect the tumor cell’s appearance.
- Combined small cell carcinoma The combined small cell is actually small cell with NSCLC components.
Neuroendocrine cells are cells that have nerve and hormonal functions. They are found throughout the body, including in the lungs. Healthy neuroendocrine cells help heal injured organs and tissues inside the body. Sometimes neuroendocrine cells start multiplying out of control, turn cancerous, and create what are called neuroendocrine tumors. These tumors can occur anywhere in the body, though they are most common in the digestive system.
When neuroendocrine tumors occur in the lungs, which is the second most common place for these tumors, they are called pulmonary neuroendocrine tumors. They make up a small percentage of lung cancers.
In addition to small cell lung and large cell lung cancer, this group also includes carcinoid tumors, which have a slower rate of growth and spread. Pulmonary carcinoid tumors usually develop in the bronchi, which are the two air tubes that lead from the trachea, or windpipe, to the lungs. There are two subtypes of pulmonary carcinoid tumors.
- Typical carcinoid tumors These make up the majority of pulmonary carcinoid tumors and are low-grade, slow-growing cancers that seldom spread beyond the lungs.
- Atypical carcinoid tumors are rarer and faster growing than typical carcinoid tumors, and are more likely to spread to other organs.
To learn more:
• Diagnostic Tests for Lung Cancer