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Lung Cancer

Types of Lung Cancer

Although it might be easy to think of lung cancer as one disease, there are actually several different types of lung cancer — each of which is treated differently. It's important for newly diagnosed patients to understand the type of lung cancer they have and how that impacts options for treatment and prognosis. The lung cancer specialists at Virginia Oncology Associates work with patients to ensure they have the information needed to feel confident in their diagnosis and treatment decisions.

Two Primary Types of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is designated by two types:

Both small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how those cells appear when viewed under a microscope. The cancer cells of each type of lung cancer grow and spread differently. 

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

The most common type of lung cancer in the United States is non-small cell lung cancer. The three main types of NSCLC include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (epidermoid carcinoma) - common for smokers with lung cancer, accounting for about half of the NSCLC cases. 
  • Large cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma - common for non-smokers with lung cancer. 

Smoking can increase the risk of developing non-small cell lung cancer. Learn more about the risk factors for developing lung cancer

Small Cell Lung Cancer

The two general types of small cell lung cancer include:

  • Small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer)
  • Combined small cell carcinoma

Smoking tobacco is the major risk factor for developing small cell lung cancer.

Other Types of Lung Tumors

There are other types of cancerous tumors that can happen in the lungs, but just because the tumor is in the lungs does not mean they are treated like lung cancer. These other types of tumors include:

  • Lung carcinoid tumors. These tumors start in neuroendocrine cells, a special kind of cell found in the lungs. This type of cancer is often found in younger than average lung cancer patients.
  • Mesothelioma. This is a rare type of cancer that develops in thin tissue called mesothelium, which lines the lungs and abdomen. This type of lung cancer is linked to asbestos exposure. 
  • Rare tumors like adenoid cystic carcinomas, sarcomas, lymphomas, and hamartomas (benign lung tumors).
  • Cancers that spread to the lungs. Sometimes, cancer that develops in another area of the body can metastasize to the lungs. Cancers like this are not considered lung cancer— they are considered to be a cancer of the organ in which it originated and would be treated as such.  

Before an oncologist can recommend the best lung cancer treatment plan for you, it's important to learn more about your cancer by determining the stage of lung cancer

Lung Cancer Specialists and the Latest Treatment Options at Virginia Oncology Associates

The lung cancer specialists at Virginia Oncology Associates are here to answer any questions you may have about your type of cancer and options for lung cancer treatment. We provide patients with compassionate care and the latest treatment options. Our cancer centers are located throughout Hampton Roads and Eastern North Carolina in cities including Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg, Chesapeake, Suffolk, and Elizabeth City.