Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers, with over 44,000 people diagnosed in the UK each year. It is also one of the most dangerous cancers, with death rates being high with over 35,000 people dying from the disease each year.

There are two types of lung cancers that develop and spread differently, as a result, they also respond differently to treatment. The two types of lung cancer are:

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

Small-cell lung cancer

Small-cell lung cancer is rarer than Non-small cell. Small-cell lung cancer is responsible for just 15% of all lung-cancers, compared to Non-small cell lung cancer being 75%. Small-cell lung cancer under a microscope is very small; it is often called ‘oat cell cancer’ due to the appearance of it. The main cause of small-cell lung cancer is smoking; it’s very rare to develop SCLC if a person has never smoked before.

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Non-small cell lung cancer

Non-small cell lung cases are the most commonly diagnosed lung cancer, its split into three subtypes. These three cancers all have different appearances and characteristics but are in the same group as the treatment for them and the overall outlook is similar. Occasionally a cancer can develop in the lung that doesn’t belong to any lung cancer category, this can be because:

  • – Undeveloped Cells (also known as undifferentiated cells)
  • – Insufficient cell amount tested


40% of cancers are Adenocarcinoma; smokers are usually more prone to this type of lung cancer but can also be found in non-smokers. It is more common in the out layers of the lungs and is a slow growing cancer.

Large Cell Carcinoma

15% of large cell carcinoma accounts for NSCLC; it can develop in any part of the lung, usually spreading quite quickly. It’s called large-cell because under a microscope, the cells look large and rounded.

Squamous Cell Cancer

This type of cancer develops from the flat surface covering cells in the airway, it accounts for around 30% of all lung cancers and is usually found near the bronchus. The number of people developing this type of cancer is slowing decreasing in the UK.

Other lung cancers:

Secondary cancer is a cancer that has spread to the lungs, rather than growing their first. If a cancer has spread to the lungs from another area of the body, this indicated that the cancer is more advanced.

Lung Cancer Causes

Smoking: This is the biggest cause of lung cancer being responsible for 85% of all lung cancer. Being a past smoker also increases the risk as well as inhaling second-hand smoke regularly.

Exposure and pollution: Chemicals can increase your risk of developing lung cancer, chemicals include: arsenic, nickel, silica, coal and coke fumes, cadmium, beryllium, asbestos, soot or tar. Living where there’s high air pollution can put you at risk of developing the disease.

Family History: If a close family member has had lung cancer, this could increase your chances of developing the disease.
HIV: People who are infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus are at a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Previous Medical History: Having lung disease in the past can increase your chances of developing the disease in the future. Past cancer treatment and having cancer in the past also puts you at higher risk.

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Lung Cancer Signs and Symptoms

Some of these symptoms may be related to other conditions, but if you’re concerned, check with your doctors. Common signs and symptoms of lung cancer are:

  • – Chest discomfort and pain
  • – Coughing for a long period of time
  • – Trouble breathing
  • – Swelling in face/ veins in the neck.
  • – Fatigue (Extreme tiredness)
  • – Weight-loss with no apparent reason
  • – Loss of appetite
  • – Coughing up phlegm that contains blood
  • – Wheezing
  • – Ache or pain in chest or shoulder

Less Common symptoms

  • – Breathlessness
  • – Having trouble swallowing
  • – Discomfort or pain under ribs on right (where the liver is)
  • – Swollen neck
  • – Difficulty swallowing
  • – Hoarse voice
  • – ‘Finger Clubbing’ Changes in the shape of fingers/ nails

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