Five Types of Lung Cancer

Over 100 types of cancers exist, and the most well-known form is lung cancer. Lung Cancer is regularly highlighted as a consequence of smoking in advertising campaigns against tobacco. However, other rare types may also develop in the chest and the lungs wall that are not so well known. Cancer that begins in your lungs is known as primary lung cancer, and if it spreads to the lungs from a different part of your body, it is called secondary lung cancer. The location and the type of cells that have become cancerous indicate which type of lung cancer a patient has, and this information will help your doctor decide on an effective treatment for you.

Lung cancer (primary) is classified into two main groups: small-cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer, which is the typical primary lung cancer.

Small Cell Lung Cancer

Cigarette smoke is the leading cause of almost every small cell lung cancer (SCLC). SCLC is a rapidly growing cancer type that spreads exceptionally quickly compared to any other kind of lung cancer. Below are two different types of SCLC:


Mesothelioma is considered a rare type of cancer occurring in the chest lining, caused mainly by exposure to asbestos. It accounts for over 5% of all lung cancer cases. Mesothelioma cancer cells grow over a more extended period. It may take about 30 to 50 years from when you were first exposed to asbestos until you are diagnosed with cancer. Once mesothelioma is diagnosed, the doctors establish the cancer stage, and patients learn the tumor size, where it’s developed, and how far it has spread.

Chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation are the main treatments for mesothelioma. Combination approaches using all these therapies are currently in the testing phase. Visit for more information on mesothelioma and its effective treatment options.

Combined Small Cell Carcinoma

Combined small cell lung carcinoma is a multiphasic lung cancer numbered among the more aggressive forms of cancer. It develops when a malignant tumor originates in lung tissue containing an element of small cell lung carcinoma mixed with one or more aspects of non-small cell lung carcinoma. Different treatment options are available for combined small cell carcinomas, such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, etc.

Surgical procedure is the preferred treatment commonly used in non-small cell lung cancers than in small cell lung cancer. Chemotherapy is considered the most common treatment used for small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Such medicines spread throughout your body, killing every cancerous cell that may have developed outside the lung.

Radiation therapy is often combined with chemotherapeutic agents if the tumor is localized in the lung and other chest parts. This therapy employs precisely targeted X-rays to destroy localized cancerous cells. It can also inhibit or treat the growth of small cell lung cancer (SCLC) that has developed in the brain (metastasis).

Furthermore, radiation therapy can inhibit tumor relapse after surgery, treat tumors in non-surgical patients, or treat tumors that cause symptoms in other body areas.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common form of lung cancer. It develops and spreads more slowly than SCLC. There are three primary forms of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and identified by the kind of cells present in the tumor:

  • Adenocarcinoma is a commonly occurring lung cancer type in the U.S and typically starts along the outer regions of the lungs. It is the most common form of lung cancer in individuals who have never smoked.
  • A large cell carcinoma is a group of cancers having large, abnormal-looking tumor cells. These tumors can appear anywhere in the lungs and can multiply rapidly.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is also known as epidermoid carcinoma. It initiates in the bronchi region close to the middle of your lungs.

For NCSLC that has not spread outside the lung, surgery can help remove cancer. Doctors may recommend surgery with chemotherapy and radiation therapy in more advanced cancers. Radiation and chemotherapy can be given before surgery to reduce the size of tumors and inhibit the spread of cancerous cells through the entire bloodstream. It is known as neoadjuvant therapy.

Chest Wall Tumors

Chest wall tumors are a very rare form of cancer. Like any other cancer type, tumors detected in the chest wall can be malignant or benign. It is highly crucial to treat malignant tumors. In contrast, treatments for benign tumors depend on their location and the symptoms. If any tumor pushes against a lung and causes difficulty in a patient’s breathing, then it should be treated immediately.

Types of Chest Wall Tumors

Tumors that appear in the chest wall are classified based on their location, whether they’re in the chest wall (primary tumors) or spread to your chest wall from cancers initiated elsewhere, like in the breast (metastatic tumors). Primary chest wall tumors begin in the bones or muscles situated in the chest wall. In children, chest wall tumors are mostly primary, while they’re more likely to be metastatic in adults. Every metastatic tumor is malignant.

Sarcomas are tumors that appear in muscle or bone tissue and rarely in other tissue types. They are the most common primary tumors located in the chest wall.

Metastasized Cancer

Some cancers present in the lung are caused by pulmonary metastasis. Metastatic cancers start in another region of your body and spread to the lungs through the bloodstream or lymphatic system. Almost every cancer type can metastasize to your lungs. Some cancer types that often spread to your lungs include:

Carcinoid Tumors

Carcinoid tumor is the rare type of cancer most often seen in the intestines or stomach. However, they can sometimes begin in the lungs. Carcinoid tumors can be categorized as typical or atypical carcinoids.

Typical carcinoids develop slowly and don’t usually spread outside the lungs. Nine out of ten lung carcinoid tumors are typical carcinoids.

Atypical carcinoids develop more rapidly and are more likely to spread beyond the lungs.

Carcinoid tumor is also often classified by where they initiate in the lungs. Central carcinoids grow in the bronchi, the large airways situated near the middle of the lungs. Peripheral lung carcinoids start in the smaller airways at the edge of the lung, and they are also typical carcinoids. Lung carcinoid tumors are often treated through surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be utilized as adjunct therapies or when surgery is not an option.


In addition to two major types of lung cancer, various other rarer forms of cancer are present. Each type of cancer may vary in size, location, and how it spreads to other organs. Their treatment, surgical procedures, and recovery time may also be different. However, chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy are the most promising treatments for any lung cancer.