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Different Lung Cancers

Lung cancer cells invade the healthy lung tissue and destroy it. Additionally, lung cancer cells can break off and spread (metastasize) to other organs in the body. 

When lung cancer cells invade another organ, such as the liver, those cancer cells in the liver are lung cancer cells not liver cancer cells. This is important to remember because your treatment will be tailored to treat lung cancer cells.

There are different types of lung cancers. Each lung cancer cell has a distinctive look when viewed by microscope. Lung cancer is divided into two major types: Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLS) and Small Cell Lung Cancer.


Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer



Cell Type and Location


* 40% of the NSCLC in the U S.

* The most common lung cancer among women.

* The incidence of this cancer is increasing.

*The most common type of lung cancer in people who have never smoked

* Develops in the airway tissues of the lungs.

* Specifically, the glandular secretory tissues. (Tissues that produce mucus.)

* Usually begins along the outer edges of the lungs and under the lining of the bronchi.

* Is not found in the main bronchi, like the squamous cell variety.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma
(Also Called Epidermoid Carcinoma)

* Approximately 30 to 35% of the non-small cell cancer in the U.S.

*This type of cancer is linked to moking.                     

* Affects men and the elderly most frequently.

* Squamous cell carcinoma is a common type of primary lung cancer.

* Usually does not spread as quickly as other types of lung cancer.

*Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales.

* Develops from the cells that line the airways in the lungs.

* Commonly the tumor growths are located in the center of the lungs near the large airways (bronchi).

* In later stages in outer area of the lung

Large Cell Carcinoma

* These tumors usually grow quickly.      

* Account for 10% all lung cancers. 

* The cells look large and unnatural under the microscope.

* Often found in the central or outer parts of the lung

Adenosquamous Carcinoma

* About 1 to 2 percent of all lung cancer.

* Tends to metastasize early (spreads out side of the lung in which the tumor is located).


* Has characteristics of both Squamous and Adenocarcinoma cells

* Tumor is usually located outer edges of the lung

Undifferentiated Carcinoma

* Tends to grow quickly.

* Cells that do not look like normal cells and multiply uncontrollably.

* Can be found anywhere In the lung.



Small Cell Lung Cancer



Cell Type and Location

Small Cell Lung Cancer (Also Called Oat Cell)

*20 percent of all lung cancers.   

*SCLC has decreased in the last 20 years.  

* Result of smoking and/or breathing second hand smoke.    

*Quick onset and aggressive.   

*Has a 60 to 80 percent response to initial treatment.

* Cells are round and look like oats

* Large centrally located (bronchus) tumors.



2024 American Association for Respiratory Care