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Almost all types of lung cancer are carcinomas. The term carcinoma means that the tumour cells derive from an epithelial cell, which is the kind of cell existing on the surface of the airways.
Lung carcinomas are divided into two main groups based on how the cancer cells look: small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). To know the kind of lung cancer is very important, because SCLC and NSCLC have different clinical characteristics and treatment. The NSCLC is the most common, representing 85% of all lung cancers.4
The stage of cancer identifies the extent of cancer in the body. This is used to plan the treatment.
In general, doctors try to diagnose and stage the cancer at the same time. This involves several tests.
In the staging system called AJCC (American Joint Committee on Cancer), the letters T, N and M identify different areas of cancer growth. The T score indicates how large and where the primary tumour is. The N score indicates how far lung cancer has spread within nearby lymph nodes. And the M score indicates that the cancer has spread to parts of the body other than the lung in which it started. The combination of TNM scores assigns the stage of the cancer. In lung cancer, this stage ranges from 0 to IV3:
Prevalence and prognosis
Lung cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed (excluding keratinocyte carcinoma, a skin cancer) and the greatest cause of cancer-related death. Lung cancer represents 17% of all cancers in men and 9% of all cancers in women.5
The incidence and mortality rates of lung cancer are higher in countries with higher socioeconomic development, and some countries have a declining trend in men but an increasing trend in women.6
Several factors, such as age, sex, lung function, body constitution, concurrence of other diseases, histopathological type, spread of the tumour, and treatment influence the prognosis in lung cancer. Prognosis of the non-small-cell lung cancer is better than that of the small-cell lung cancer.
Considering the degree of spread of the lung cancer, the disease can be:
The best prognosis is always for localised lung cancer. In 2010, the prognosis at 5 years for localised lung cancer had an average survival rate of 58.2 %.
The survival rate at 5 years is different depending on the histologic subtype and the stage of cancer.