Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the U.S., and lung cancer in particular is responsible for the most cancer-related deaths for both men and women throughout the world. While lung cancer is most commonly diagnosed in people who have smoked, it can also occur in those who never have. There are two main types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Today we’re going to walk you through both types of lung cancer and the various stages of lung cancer.

Types Of Lung Cancer

There are two primary types of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non small cell lung cancer. Both can be very severe, and the difference lies mostly in where the cancer originates and how quickly it spreads. 

Small cell lung cancer starts in the bronchi – the airways leading to your lungs – and spreads from there to other parts of your body. Although SCLC accounts for less than 15% of all lung cancers it is incredibly aggressive, metastasizing and spreading throughout the body very quickly. 

Non small cell lung cancer, on the other hand, is far more common – accounting for nearly 90% of all lung cancer diagnosis. It’s not as aggressive as SCLC, originating in the lung tissue and growing at a much slower rate. Although smoking raises a patient’s risk for both SCLC and NSCLC, small cell lung cancer occurs almost exclusively in patients with a history of smoking.

Stages Of Lung Cancer

One of the primary differences between small cell lung cancer and non small cell lung cancer is that way that the two diseases are classified. 

Small Cell Lung Cancer Stages

In small cell lung cancer there are two stages: limited and extensive. In the limited stage, the cancer is only in one lung versus the extensive stage where it has metastasized. Common body parts for lung cancer metastases are the brain, liver and bones. 

Non Small Cell Lung Cancer Stages

Non small cell lung cancer staging uses the TNM system, which stands for T(tumor), N(node), M (metastasis). In this system T references the original tumor’s size, N dictates whether the cancer is present in the lymph nodes, and M denotes whether the cancer has spread. The TNM system is also accompanied by a number (0-4) to further distinguish the stage of the cancer. The numbered stages range from 0-4 based on the severity of the cancer.

  • Stage 0 indicates a small cancer that hasn’t spread
  • Stage 1 indicates cancer present in the lung tissues but hasn’t affected the lymph nodes
  • Stage 2 indicates cancer that has begun to spread to nearby lymph nodes
  • Stage 3 indicates cancer that has continued to spread outside of the lungs and lymph nodes
  • Stage 4 represents the most advanced stage of lung cancer. In this stage the cancer has spread beyond into other organs of the body.

Both SCLC and NSCLC are serious and potentially deadly types of cancer, but they’re not a death sentence. Early detection of lung cancer can increase the number of treatment options available to patients as well as increase their chances of successfully beating the disease. Here at Rosetta Radiology we offer a CT lung cancer screening exam that helps to diagnose lung cancer before it’s progressed or spread throughout the body. If you’re in the Manhattan area and in need of lung cancer screening, schedule an appointment today!