Dr. David Carbone discusses the differences between small cell and non-small cell lung cancer. Dr. Carbone then describes the subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer and which types are most common.
Dr. David Carbone is a medical oncologist and professor of internal medicine at The Ohio State University. Dr. Carbone is also co-leader of the Translational Therapeutics Program at the OSUCCC – James, where serves as director of the Thoracic Oncology Center. Learn more about Dr. Carbone, here.
What is the difference between non-small cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer?
Well, I like to tell patients every cancer is different from every other cancer, but they can be broadly categorized in two different categories, small cell and non-small cell.
And this derived from decades ago when small cell lung cancer just looked different under the microscope than non-small cell lung cancer. And different small cells can look different, and now we’re sub-typing small cells. But in general, small cells are treated pretty similarly. Non-small cells are divided into two main groups, the squamous cell carcinomas and the adenocarcinomas.
Adenocarcinomas have a variety of subtypes, as well, and then there are a few of the non-small cell lung cancers that are clearly non-small cell but don’t fit into either of those two categories, and they’re called large-cell or not otherwise specified.
And then, there’s a whole slew of rare types of lung cancers that we probably don’t have time to discuss, and mesothelioma that happened in the chest.
Right. Is one type of lung cancer more common than the other?
So, the vast majority of lung cancers are the non-small cell lung cancers, about 85 percent. And among the non-small cell lung cancers, most of those are adenocarcinomas or non-squamous. Decades ago, squamous was the most common type, and in some parts of the world, it still is. But in the United States, it depends on the region; 60, 70 percent of lung cancers are adenocarcinomas