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What Is Lung Cancer?

There are 2 main types of lung cancer:

Non-small cell lung cancer

Most cases of lung cancer are called non-small cell. There are a few different types of non-small cell lung cancer. These include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.

Small cell lung cancer

Small cell lung cancer is less common than non-small cell lung cancer. Small cell cancer is sometimes called oat cell cancer. (The cells are shaped like oats when viewed under a microscope.) This type of lung cancer may grow and spread faster than non-small cell cancer.

Outline of male figure with arrows showing lung cancer spreading to liver, other lung, bone, and brain.
Lung cancer can spread to the other lung, the liver, brain, or bones.

How cancer spreads

Cancer cells don’t always stay in one place. Cancer cells can break off from the place they started. They can spread to other parts of the body if they enter the bloodstream. They can also spread if they enter the lymph system. The lymph system is a network of nodes and vessels that help your body fight disease. When cancer spreads, the process is called metastasis. Lung cancer that spreads (metastasizes) often goes to the other lung or the liver, brain, or bones.

Online Medical Reviewer: Gersten, Todd, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stump-Sutliff, Kim, RN, MSN, AOCNS
Date Last Reviewed: 1/3/2016
© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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