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The Different Types of Lung Cancer

Physician comforting a patientThere are a number of ways to classify a patient’s lung cancer. For example, types of lung cancer are classified by the type of cell involved with the cancer. Lung cancer stages, which are numerically ranked, are used to specify the size of a tumor as well as the degree to which cancer has spread in the body. Treatment strategies will depend heavily on a patient’s type and stage of cancer.

The two main types of lung cancer identified by oncologists include:

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

This is the most common type, making up more than 85 percent of lung cancer diagnoses. It has three subtypes:

Adenocarcinoma is the most common. It typically grows on the outside of the lungs and is the lung cancer most frequently seen in non-smokers.

Squamous cell carcinoma generally develops inside one of the lungs’ air passageways.

Large cell carcinoma can appear anywhere in or on a lung and is usually fast spreading.

Small-Cell Lung Cancer

This type only accounts for 10 to 15 percent of diagnosed lung cancers. It can be further classified as small cell carcinoma, which makes up the majority of this type of cancer, or combined small cell carcinoma, which is less common and can contain non-small cell cancer cells. This type of lung cancer tends to be faster growing than non-small cell lung cancer, presenting additional treatment challenges.

There is also a third type – lung carcinoid tumors – which account for a very small percentage of lung cancers.

Categorizing Lung Cancers

Additionally, lung cancers can be further categorized as:

  • Primary – This type of cancer originates in the lungs.
  • Secondary – This type of lung cancer travels to the lungs from another area of the body and is referred to by the place it originated. Cancers in the lungs can metastasize to other areas as well.

The pulmonary and lung cancer program at Tampa General Hospital’s Cancer Institute provides outstanding treatment to patients who have been diagnosed with any type or stage of lung cancer. TGH clinicians take a team approach to cancer care and use the most advanced technologies and techniques in an effort to provide our patients with successful treatment outcomes. Treatments for specific types of lung cancer can vary from patient to patient, and the team at TGH will form a specialized plan tailored to a patient’s individual needs and lung cancer symptoms.

For a physician referral, please use our Physician Finder tool, call (813) 844-2200 or contact TGH.