Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Often, symptoms typically don’t appear until later stages, after cancer has spread from one lung to another. This makes it difficult to diagnose patients with stage 1 or stage 2 cancer. If you believe you were exposed to a hazardous chemical that could cause cancer, speak with your doctor and schedule an early cancer screening.
Symptoms can include:
- Recurrent cough
- Unyielding chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Recurring lung infections
- Coughing up blood
The lungs don’t have as many nerve endings as other organs in the body, and people in the early stages of cancer may not experience pain. It’s important to look at your history and consider your risk of exposure. Some of the above symptoms may seem benign, but they can vary greatly based on the stage and type of cancer.
Types of Lung Cancer
While many consider lung cancer as a singular entity, there are actually multiple types and subtypes that may occur. Specialists have divided the disease into two main categories: small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. These two forms are based on the types of cells found in the biopsy.
Small Cell Lung Cancer
Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) makes up about 20 percent of diagnoses. This cell type is almost always caused by the carcinogens found in cigarettes. The common subtypes of SCLC include:
- Combined small cell carcinoma
- Small cell carcinoma
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Eighty percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer show signs of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This form of cancer spreads and develops more slowly.
It has three primary subtypes:
- Large cell carcinoma
- Squamous cell carcinoma
These are the most common subtypes of small cell and non-small cell cancer, but there are more. A doctor could potentially diagnose what type a patient has based on their symptoms and daily habits. However, after taking a biopsy and examining the patient’s tumor under a microscope, they could identify a rarer or more specific subtype.
Malignant Mesothelioma Cancer
Malignant mesothelioma is cancer that starts in cells in the linings of certain parts of the body, most commonly the linings of the chest or abdomen (belly).
Mesotheliomas can start in 4 main parts of the body.
- Pleural mesotheliomas start in the chest. More than 3 out of 4 mesotheliomas are pleural mesotheliomas.
- Peritoneal mesotheliomas start in the abdomen. They make up most of the remaining cases.
- Pericardial mesotheliomas start in the covering around the heart and are very rare.
- Mesotheliomas of the tunica vaginalis are very rare tumors that start in the covering layer of the testicles.
Screening for Lung Cancer
By the time most people have developed symptoms, their cancer has already reached a later stage. Early screening plays an essential role in a patient’s recovery. Screening for lung cancer is quick, easy, and, in some cases, may prevent or reduce the spread of the disease.
The USPSTF recommends yearly lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) for people who have a history of heavy smoking, smoke now, or have quit within the past 15 years, and are between 55 and 80 years old.
Learn more about screening for lung cancer.
Stages of Lung Cancer
There are four primary stages. While there is some variation depending on the type and subtype, oncologists generally use stages 1, stage 2, stage 3, and stage 4 to determine how far the disease has spread and what treatments would work best. The staging process only occurs after a patient receives a positive diagnosis (i.e. test results indicate the presence of cancer).
Typically, oncologists and doctors use the TNM classification system:
T – Tumor – What is the size and location of the tumor?
N – Nodes – Has cancer spread to the lymph nodes?
M – Metastasis – Has cancer spread to other organs?