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About Lung Cancer

Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common cancer in both men (after prostate cancer) and women (after breast cancer).

Dr. Gregory Kalemkerian, co-director of U-M thoracic oncology talks about the causes, treatment and screening options for lung cancer.

Lung cancer accounts for about 13% of all new cancers and about 27% of all cancer deaths and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women. Black men are about 20% more likely to develop lung cancer than white men. Both black and white women have lower rates than men, Black women have about a 10% lower risk than white women. The lung cancer rate has been dropping among men over the past 2 decades and has just recently begun to drop in women.

The American Cancer Society estimates about 221,200 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed (115,040 in men and 105,590 in women) for lung cancer in the United States for 2015.

Source: American Cancer Society - What are the key statistics about lung cancer?

Types of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is divided into two large groups, each of which represents different types of cells and has different treatment requirements.
  • Non-small cell lung cancer
  • Small cell lung cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer

About 85% to 90% of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). There are 3 main subtypes of NSCLC. The cells in these subtypes differ in size, shape, and chemical make-up when looked at under a microscope. But they are grouped together because the approach to treatment and prognosis (outlook) are very similar.

Squamous (epidermoid) cell cancer:
About 25% to 30% of all lung cancers are squamous cell carcinomas. These cancers start in early versions of squamous cells, which are flat cells that line the inside of the airways in the lungs. They are often linked to a history of smoking and tend to be found in the middle of the lungs, near a bronchus.

About 40% of lung cancers are adenocarcinomas. These cancers start in early versions of the cells that would normally secrete substances such as mucus. This type of lung cancer occurs mainly in people who smoke (or have smoked), but it is also the most common type of lung cancer seen in non-smokers. It is more common in women than in men, and it is more likely to occur in younger people than other types of lung cancer.

Large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma:
This type of cancer accounts for about 10% to 15% of lung cancers. It may appear in any part of the lung. It tends to grow and spread quickly, which can make it harder to treat.

Other subtypes
This type of cancer accounts for about 10% to 15% of lung cancers. It may appear in any part of the lung. It tends to grow and spread quickly, which can make it harder to treat.

Small cell lung cancer

About 10% to 15% of all lung cancers are small cell lung cancer (SCLC), named for the size of the cancer cells when seen under a microscope. Other names for SCLC are oat cell cancer, oat cell carcinoma, and small cell undifferentiated carcinoma. It is very rare for someone who has never smoked to have small cell lung cancer.

Other types of lung cancer

Along with the 2 main types of lung cancer, other tumors can occur in the lungs. Examples of other types of tumors are carcinoid tumors, adenoid cystic carcinomas, hamartomas, lymphomas, and sarcomas. These tumors are treated differently from the more common lung cancers.

Source: National Cancer Institute: What You Need To Know About™ Lung Cancer.

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