Lung Cancer-Types & Symptoms of

Types of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer occurs when cells of the normal tissue of the lungs grow change, grow and divide out of control.  It can affect tissue surrounding the mass, as well as break away from the original mass and spread to other parts of the body (metastasis).  The most common types of lung cancer are; Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC), Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC), Mesothelioma and Carcinoid.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

  • most common type of lung cancer
  • makes up 80-85% of all cases
  • typically grows and spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer
  • staged based on the size of the primary tumor and if and where the cancer has spread (stages I, II, III, IV)

Most Commonly Types of NSCLC


  • Begins in the cells that form the lining of the lungs
  • Has gland-like properties
  • Makes up just over 30%of lung cancer diagnoses

Squamous cell carcinoma

  • Begins in the thin, flat cells that line the passages of the respiratory tract
  • Makes up just under 30% of lung cancer diagnoses

Large cell carcinoma

  • Poorly differentiated (has none of the features that would allow it to be diagnosed as another type of NSCLC)
  • Faster growing form of NSCLC
  • Makes up about 9% of lung cancer diagnoses

Large cell neuroendocrine tumors

  • Fastest growing type of NSCLC
  • Makes up about 2% of lung cancer diagnoses

Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)

  • makes up 15-20% of all lung cancer cases
  • a type of neuroendocrine tumor with cells smaller in size than most other cancer cells
  • fast-growing cancer; spreads rapidly to other parts of the body
  • usually staged as either limited or extensive, depending on if, and where, the cancer has spread


  • a cancer of the lining of organs
  • can originate in the lungs, as well as the abdomen, heart, and chest
  • associated with exposure to asbestos

Carcinoid Tumors

  • a type of neuroendocrine tumor
  • two types: typical and atypical
  • usually start in hormone producing cells that line organs such as the small intestine but also the lungs

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer often has no symptoms until it has spread (metastasized). The main reason is due to the fact that there are few specialized nerves (pain receptors) in the lungs. When symptoms do occur, they can vary depending on the type, location and size of the tumor. Unfortunately, some lung cancer symptoms are very similar to symptoms of common illnesses.


Local: Restricted to area where cancer originated – no signs of spreading

  • Coughing (most common, 50% of cases)
  • Blood in sputum (hemoptysis)
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Wheezing
  • Pain in the chest
  • Fatigue
  • Pneumonia

Local Advanced

Local Advanced: Cancer spread from origin to nearby tissue or lymph nodes

  • Hoarseness
  • Difficulty/pain in swallowing
  • High pitched sound, often heard when taking a breath, similar to wheezing
  • Excess fluid in lining of lung (pleural effusion)
  • Excess fluid in lining of heart (pericardial effusion)

Distant Metastases

Distant Metastases: Cancer spread to other parts of the body


  • Headaches
  • Seizures
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Visual disturbances


  • Bone pain


  • Stomach pain (right side)
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Nausea