There are three main types of lung cancer: adenocarcinoma (the most common type), squamous cell carcinoma, and small cell lung cancer. Each stage of lung cancer has different treatments, and your chances of survival increase as you move up through each stage. Understanding the different stages of lung cancer will help you better understand how to treat the condition and help you decide if it’s time to consider treatment for lung cancer (including surgical options).
The cancer cells in adenocarcinoma originate in the cells that line the air passages in the lungs, known as alveoli. Cells in these passages divide rapidly and become abnormal over time, eventually forming tumors. These tumors are described as adenocarcinomas. There are two main types of adenocarcinoma—bronchial and esophageal. While both types start in the bronchioles or the esophagus, they behave differently once they reach the lungs and develop further. The types of symptoms experienced depend on the location and size of the tumor.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common type of lung cancer. The cancer develops from cells in the lung that normally provide support and structure to the organ. As the cells become damaged and divide abnormally, they begin to secrete new, cancerous cells into the surrounding tissue. Squamous cell carcinomas are difficult to detect in the early stages because they lack the typical symptoms of lung cancer, such as coughing or chest pain. This type of cancer is more likely to spread than other types of lung cancer, which is why it’s important to get it treated as soon as possible.
Small Cell Lung Cancer
SCLC is a cancer that starts in small, round-shaped cells called neuroendocrine cells. These cells are found in the tissues that line the lungs and air passages. They’re mainly responsible for producing hormones that help the body function properly. When these cells become cancerous, it’s known as small cell lung cancer. This type of cancer has distinct characteristics that allow it to grow and spread quickly. It tends to be more aggressive than other types of cancer and has poor long-term survival rates. Most patients with small cell lung cancer survive for less than a year after their diagnosis.