November is lung cancer awareness month and we’re spreading the word. Lung cancer in many cases is a preventable disease often caused by smoking or other inhalants or toxins into the lungs.
It’s a complex disease to understand and treat. According to the American Lung Association, Lung cancer happens when cells in the lung change. They grow uncontrollably and cluster together to form a tumor. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells grow without order or control, destroying the healthy lung tissue around them. These types of tumors are called malignant tumors. When the cancer cells spread, they prevent organs of the body from functioning properly. Lung cells most often change because they are exposed to dangerous chemicals that we breathe.
There are two main types of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Non-small cell lung cancer is more common. Lung cancer symptoms usually do not appear until the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. At this point, it is harder to treat lung cancer.
Malignant tumors are dangerous and can grow uncontrollably. When the cancer cells grow too fast, they prevent your organs from working normally. For example, if cancer affects the lungs, the tumor may grow so large it blocks a major airway so that part of the lung is not usable for breathing or an infection may develop because of the blockage.
There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. A third less common type of lung cancer is called carcinoid.
Small cell lung cancer
There are two different types of small cell lung cancer: small cell carcinoma and mixed small cell/large cell cancer or combined small cell lung cancer. 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 lung cancer is almost always associated with cigarette smoking. Small cell lung cancer is usually treated with chemotherapy.
Non-small cell lung cancer
Non-small cell lung cancer is more common. It makes up about 80 percent of lung cancer cases. This type of cancer usually grows and spreads to other parts of the body more slowly than small cell lung cancer does.
Lung carcinoid tumors are uncommon and tend to grow slower than other types of lung cancers. They are made up of special kinds of cells called neuroendocrine cells. They are usually classified as typical or atypical carcinoids. Carcinoids are very rare, slow-growing and most commonly treated with surgery.
Just as each person is unique, each type of lung cancer is different. It is important to know the type of lung cancer you have, sometimes called “your lung cancer profile” because it helps determine what lung cancer treatment options are available.
If you’re interested in learning more about lung cancer, or if you have any concerns about your lung health, make an appointment to see your doctor.