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Small Cell and Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

The lungs are the two organs located beneath the rib cage that provide life-sustaining oxygen throughout the body. They are neither symmetrical nor functionally identical, with the left lung consisting of two lobes and the right three. Lung cancer begins when cells of a lung become abnormal and begin growing out of control. When the abnormal cancer cells grow, they can form into a tumor and even spread to other areas of the body (metastasize).

Lung cancer is designated by two types:

  • Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)
  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

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

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.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Each year in the United States, more than 226,000 people are diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. There are several different types of this cancer.

The three main types of non-small cell lung cancer include:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma (epidermoid carcinoma)
  • Large cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma

Other less common types of non-small cell lung cancer are: pleomorphic, carcinoid tumor, salivary gland carcinoma, and unclassified carcinoma.

Smoking can increase the risk of developing non-small cell lung cancer.