Lung Cancer – Types & Stages

World-Class Cancer Treatment in Phoenix, AZ

Every patient is different, and every case requires a unique, custom-designed treatment plan – and even though two patients may have the same form of cancer, their treatment plans may differ based on the specific type and stage of lung cancer they’re diagnosed with. At Palo Verde Cancer Specialists, we’re proud to provide expert radiation therapy services to our patients, designing personalized treatment plans that perfectly match their needs. Our state-of-the-art cancer treatment center in Phoenix, AZ has the technology to treat a wide variety of cancers, including the various types and stages of lung cancer.

Types of Lung Cancer

The broader label of “lung cancer” actually applies to a number of different cancerous conditions. Types of lung cancer include:

  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC): Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common form, making up for roughly 80% to 85% of diagnoses. NSCLC is one of the less aggressive forms of cancer, generally growing and spreading more slowly than other forms. An NSCLC tumor may contain any of a variety of types of cancerous cells, including:
  • Adenocarcinoma: Adenocarcinoma generally begins in the cells composing the lining of the lungs, and it’s the most common type of NSCLC, accounting for roughly 40% of cases. Adenocarcinoma is often the result of cigarette smoking, but it’s also the most common form of lung cancer for nonsmokers.
  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: This form starts in the squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells lining the inside of the airways and passages of the lungs. Squamous cell carcinoma makes up about 25% to 30% of lung cancer cases and often forms in a main airway near the center of the lungs.
  • Large Cell Carcinoma: While one of the least common forms of lung cancer, accounting for just 10% of cases, large cell carcinoma is also one of the most aggressive. These tumors are fast growing and difficult to categorize, and they may develop in any area of the lungs.
  • Large Cell Neuroendocrine Tumors: Accounting for just 2% of cases, this is the rarest form of NSCLC.
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC): Under a microscope, small cell lung cancer looks like an array of tiny oats, earning it the alias of “oat cell cancer.” This is a more aggressive form of lung cancer, growing and spreading faster than NSCLC. It accounts for the other 15% to 20% of cancer diagnoses in the US, and it’s normally found in smokers or former smokers. While we may be able to treat SCLC with radiation therapy, chemotherapy is still often the best treatment option for this form.
  • Metastatic Lung Cancer: If NSCLC or SCLC advance to the point of spreading from the lungs to other areas of the body, the become metastatic lung cancer. Metastatic lung cancer is a serious condition and can be hard to treat depending on where and how much the cancer has spread.

Stages of Lung Cancer – NSCLC

Lung cancer stage is determined using the “TNM” methodology, which stands for “tumor, node, metastasis.” Each factor can be assessed on a scale of mild to severe:

  • Tumor: Larger tumors are more serious and denote a higher stage.
  • Node: Cancers that spread to the lymph nodes are more serious and higher stage.
  • Metastasis: The highest-stage, most serious cancers have spread to other parts of the body.

Each of these three factors plays into the stage of cancer, and lung cancer may be anywhere from stage 0 to stage IV. Even within each stage, though there may be sub-stages. The stages of NSCLC progress as follows:

  • Stage 0: This is the least advanced form of lung cancer, when the tumor is still very small and has not spread through the lungs or the body.
  • Stage I: Stage I lung cancer is still a small tumor and may have spread slightly into the deeper lung tissue, but it hasn’t reached a lymph node or spread to another part of the body. Stage I lung cancer can be treated with surgery.
    • Stage Ia: Tumor is less than 3cm across.
    • Stage Ib: Tumor is more than 3cm across but not more than 5cm.
  • Stage II: This stage is a little more complicated. Stage II tumors fall into one of two categories:
    • Stage IIa: These tumors are either between 5cm and 7cm across and have not spread to lymph nodes, or are tumors less than 5cm across that have spread to lymph nodes.
    • Stage IIb: This applies to any tumor greater than 7cm across that has not spread to lymph nodes or any tumor between 5cm and 7cm across that has spread to lymph nodes.
  • Stage III: By stage III, the tumor is either exceedingly difficult or impossible to remove completely through surgery. At this point, the cancer may have infected lymph nodes in the chest or other structures within the lung. If the tumor can be removed through surgery, it likely has to be taken out piece by piece – stage III tumors are impossible to remove all at once.
  • Stage IV: This is the most serious stage, and the tumor is likely impossible to treat with surgery. At this point, the tumor has likely spread to other vital organs or structures in the chest and may have traveled to other, more distant parts of the body. Stage IV lung cancer has an increased risk of the cancer spreading to the brain, bones, liver, adrenal glands, or other vital body parts. Stage IVa cancer refers to a tumor that has spread within the chest, while Stage IVb refers to cancer that has spread outside the chest to more distant body parts.
  • Recurrent: Any case of lung cancer that returns after treatment is known as recurrent lung cancer.

Stages of Lung Cancer – SCLC

Small cell lung cancer has only two stages:

  • Limited Stage: This applies to cancer found only on one side of the chest that affects only one side of the lung and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Extensive Stage: This applies to cancer that has spread to other parts of the lungs, chest, and body.

Schedule a Consultation with Your Phoenix, AZ Cancer Fighting Specialists

Lung cancer is one of the most difficult forms of cancer to fight, but at Palo Verde Cancer Specialists, we’re ready to stand by your side no matter what. Our doctors are experts in using the most advanced technology in the world to treat even the most serious forms of cancer, and we firmly believe that no matter what you are facing, there’s always hope. Contact us today to schedule a consultation appointment at one of our six Phoenix, AZ cancer treatment centers. We’ll work with you to design a comprehensive treatment plan that helps you beat cancer on your own terms – so you can reclaim the healthy, happy life you deserve.

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