There are two major types of lung cancer which grow and spread in completely different ways and it is important to know which type is present. Cancer of the lung is the number one cause of cancer related death not only in the United States, but all over the world for both men and women. Most people with lung cancer do experience lung cancer symptoms – however, some people may never know they have the disease until revealed by a chest X-ray.
There are two different types of these cells that may be present in the lungs and they are classified by their appearance under the microscope; they include small cell (SCLC) and non-small cell (NSCLC). There is the possibility that other forms of cancer can appear like bronchial carcinoids, but the percentage of this type is low and they usually present in individuals under the age of forty. Metastastatic cancers; that have come from other areas can also be found here.
Small cell advance and grow very rapidly. In most cases these are not found until they have spread to other areas. They are also known as oat cell carcinomas and the cause of this type can be directly connected to smoking. Non-smokers make up for one percent of cases related to this particular type of cancer.
There are three types of non-small cell carcinomas and they make up more than eighty percent of all cancer found in the lung. Adenocarcinomas are seen in both smokers and non-smokers; in most cases these tumors are located in outside areas of the lungs. Squamous cell carcinomas are more often found in the chest area instead of bronchi and have become less common than adenocarcinomas. Large cell carcinomas are very uncommon. There is a possibility that a mixture of all three types can be present.
When symptoms are experienced they are most often directly related to the initial tumor, to malignant problems caused by hormones and blood, or other systems within the body and metastastatic tumors in other areas. Some initial signs may be a new cough or one that will not go away. Also if at any time there is blood involved with the coughing this should certainly be reason for medical attention.
Important indicators may also be wheezing, chest pain and difficulty breathing. Pain may be related to areas outside the lung as well as the lung. Shortness of breath and wheezing can result from the collection of fluid in the area around the lungs and this is known as a pleural effusion. Any of these symptoms can also be an indicator of some sort of blockage. Frequency of pneumonia and other respiratory infections like bronchitis may also be cause for alarm.
It is rare, but possible that fluid may accumulate between the heart and sac that surrounds it; called a pericardial effusion. A pneumothorax may also occur and this is the term referring to a collapsed lung. Other symptoms may present depending on which area in the body the cancer has spread to.
Treatment will be chosen after a series of test which will usually include X-rays, PET scans, CT scans and bone scans. The physician will need to assess the current stage of the cancer. Unfortunately the prognosis for this particular type of cancer is not good due to lung cancer symptoms not being present until the disease has spread. If one can detect the lung cancer early, then the prognosis is better and life expectancy longer.