Types & Stages

Lung Cancer: Types & Stages

Internationally-renowned radiation oncologists are equipped to develop a lung cancer treatment plan for you at Orange County CyberKnife based on the type of cancer you have been diagnosed with and its stage. Orange County CyberKnife is the only cancer treatment center in Orange County with such a comprehensive array of radiation procedures. With all of the advanced treatment options in one center, our patients feel safe knowing that our doctors can choose the best lung cancer treatment option or combination of treatment options for your individual circumstance.

Types Of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer treatment is based on the three types you may be diagnosed with:

  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)  By far the most common type of lung cancer, 80% to 85% of diagnosed lung cancer is attributed to this type. NSCLC usually grows and spreads at a slower rate than other types of cancer. Some tumors are made up of cells from more than one type of NSCLC, but the most commonly diagnosed types of NSCLC are:
    • Adenocarcinoma  This type of cancer has gland-like properties and begins in early versions of the cells that make up the lining of the lungs. It is the most common form of cancer for both men and women in the U.S., making up about 40% of those diagnosed with lung cancer. It occurs most often in smokers or former smokers, but it is also the most common type of cancer in nonsmokers and younger people. One type of adenocarcinoma, called adenocarcinoma in situ, is more treatable than the others.
    • Squamous Cell Carcinoma – Cancer begins in the thin, flat cells that line the inside airways of the respiratory tract. It accounts for about 25% to 30% of those diagnosed with lung cancer. These abnormal cells can usually be found near a main airway toward the central part of the lungs.
    • Large Cell Carcinoma – This is a faster-growing form of NSCLC that can appear on any part of the lung and does not fit into the other categories. It makes up about 10% of lung cancer diagnoses.
    • Large Cell Neuroendocrine Tumors – These fast growing tumors make up only about 2% of lung cancer diagnoses.
  • Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)  This much faster growing and spreading cancer looks like tiny oats under a microscope, and so is termed “oat cell” cancer. The cells in this neuroendocrine tumor are smaller in size than most other cancer cells. This type of cancer represents the other 15% of lung cancers in the U.S. and is usually caused by smoking tobacco. Chemotherapy is often the best treatment for this type of cancer, but advanced radiation treatments are providing favorable outcomes.
  • Metastatic Lung Cancer  When lung cancer cells break away from a tumor and spread to other parts of your body through your lymph nodes or your blood, you have what is called metastatic lung cancer. This can happen before or after treatment.This is different than recurrent cancer because it spreads to a different part of the body than was previously infected.

Stages Of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

The stages of lung cancer vary based on the types outlined above. However, the stages correspond with the methodology TNM – tumor, node, metastasis.

  1. Tumor – The larger the primary tumor or abnormal growth, the more serious.
  2. Node – The more lymph nodes that have cancerous cells, the more serious the cancer.
  3. Metastasis – Serious stages involve the spreading of cancer to other parts of the body.

Doctors assign levels for each of the above factors and then combine these levels into stages. They stages of lung cancer are:

  • Stage 0 – This is a non-invasive cancer when the disease is very small, remains in place (in situ), and has not spread into deeper lung tissue or to other surrounding tissue.
  • Stage I – A lung cancer that includes a small tumor that might have spread into the underlying lung tissue, but that has not spread to any lymph nodes in other parts of the body. The surgeon is able to remove the tumor.
    • Stage Ia – The tumor is smaller than 3 cm. wide.
    • Stage Ib – The tumor is between 3 cm. and 5 cm. wide.
  • Stage II – There are two substages of Stage II cancer. A surgeon may or may not be able to remove the entire tumor.
    • Stage IIa – In this stage, the tumor is between 5 cm. and 7 cm. wide and has not spread to nearby lymph nodes; OR the tumor is less than 5 cm. and HAS spread to nearby lymph nodes.
    • Stage IIb – If the tumor is between the 5 cm. and 7 cm. as in the earlier stage, but it HAS spread to nearby lymph nodes, it is considered Stage IIb. Or, if the tumor is larger than 7 cm. wide but has not spread, it falls into this stage. The tumor may also be partly blocking the airways.
  • Stage III – Stage IIIa lung cancers and almost all of stage IIIb cancers include a tumor that is difficult, sometimes impossible, to remove. The lung cancer may have spread into the lymph nodes in the center of the chest, but outside the lung. Or, the tumor might have grown into nearby structures in the lung. It is less likely, in these cases, that the surgeon can completely remove the cancer because it has to be taken out piece by piece.
  • Stage IV  Surgery is not usually successful for most Stage III or Stage IV lung cancers. If the cancerous cells have become Stage IV and have spread to lymph nodes above the collarbone or if the cancer has grown into fluid surrounding the lung, or vital structures within the chest like the heart, large blood vessels, or primary airways, it can be impossible to remove. If the cancer spreads to the blood, it can easily travel to the brain, bones, liver, and adrenal glands.
    • Stage IVa – Cancer has spread within the chest.
    • Stage IVb – Cancer has spread outside the chest to other parts of the body.
  • Recurrent – This stage of cancer is used when the cancer returns to the originally infected place after treatment. Once that happens, doctors run more tests to establish a current stage.

Stages Of Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)

  • Limited stage: There are cancerous cells found on just one side of the chest, affecting only one part of the lung and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Extensive stage: Cancer has spread to other areas of the chest or other parts of the body.

Call Us Today To Find Out More

Still have questions about cancer types and stages? Do not hesitate to contact us today at (714) 962-7100. Our team of internationally renowned radiotherapy and radiosurgery specialists at Orange County CyberKnife are ready to work with you on a treatment plan to meet your individual needs. We can treat tumors throughout your body using the most advanced non-surgical and non-invasive radiation therapy systems available. Let us make sure you know all the radiation options available to you at our comprehensive cancer treatment center, including the CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery system. Use these links to find out more about lung cancer: