Types & Stages | Phoenix CyberKnife Radiation & Oncology Center

Lung Cancer: Types & Stages

Phoenix Lung Cancer Types & Stages

If doctors have diagnosed you or a loved one with lung cancer, you are likely looking for a whole lot of answers. What type of lung cancer do you have? How far has it advanced? What are the treatment options? The radiation oncologists at Phoenix CyberKnife and Radiation Oncology Center can help. We can answer those questions and more, explaining in detail the variety of treatment options that are available to you.

One of those options is the state-of-the-art CyberKnife Robotic Radiosurgery System. CyberKnife is a Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) that is clinically proven as effective, and in most cases more even more effective, than surgery or conventional radiation treatments. Not only is CyberKnife effective, the treatments for lung cancer are completed in only one short treatment per day for four or five days. Traditional radiation treatments can last daily for up to 45 days. CyberKnife is also often recommended to treat metastasized lung cancer and recurrent lung cancer.

Most lung tumors develop from the gland cells in the lung and are called Adenocarcinoma. These slow-growing tumors comprise about 90% of lung cancers and can be cured, when treated before metastasizing to other parts of the body. With CyberKnife, high doses of radiation are beamed at multiple angles directly to the lung gland. One of the challenges in treating lung cancer is that the tumor can move up to two inches. CyberKnife tracks the tumor during treatment, even as you breathe. The unbeatable precision helps reduce side effects and keep nearby vital organs healthy and functioning properly.

The Development of Lung Cancer

When cells in the lungs mutate and those abnormal cells divide and multiply uncontrollably, a tumor is formed. If the tumor remains in one place, it is benign. But if the cancerous cells can invade other healthy tissue, the tumor is considered malignant - lung cancer. If not killed quickly, these tumors can grow and spread, or metastasize, into other parts of the body. As tumors grow, they can prevent lung’s ability to provide oxygen to the blood.

Lung Tumor Stages

Doctors will use the information uncovered by your symptoms as well as several other factors and imaging in order to diagnose lung cancer. Common imaging techniques that can help diagnose lung cancer include chest X-rays, bronchoscopy (a thin tube with a camera on one end), CT scans, MRI scans, and PET scans. Looking at cells under the microscope is the only absolute way to diagnose lung cancer.

After your doctor makes a diagnosis, he or she will determine the stage of cancer to help inform the best treatment plan and prognosis. Most commonly, doctors use the TNM system.

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.

For non-small cell lung cancer, TNM descriptions lead to assigning stages. These stages are labeled from I to IV, where lower numbers indicate earlier stages where the cancer has spread less. Larger tumors that have affected more nodes and spread to more areas of your body are assigned higher levels and those are then combined into stages:

  • Stage I - A tumor found only in the lung that is so small it can’t be seen in imaging or felt with a rectal exam. Size is less than one-half of one of the four lobe of the lung. PSA is less than 10.
  • Stage II - The tumor is still only inside the lung, but has grown some. Stage IIa - The tumor has grown to between one-half of one lobe and two lobes. Stage IIb - The tumor has grown to the size of two lobes of the lung.
  • Stage III - In Stage III, the cancer has spread outside the lung to adjacent tissue, such as the seminal vesicles. It has not spread to any lymph nodes or other parts of the body.
  • Stage IV - In this stage, the cancer has metastasized outside the lung and adjacent tissue to other parts of the body including lymph nodes, the bones, liver, or lungs.
  • 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.

Types of Lung Tumors

  • Acinar Adenocarcinoma. This slow-growing type of cancer develops in the glandular organ of the lung and accounts for more than 90% of all lung cancers in the U.S. There is an excellent chance for curing adenocarcinoma when caught early.
  • Rare Lung Cancer Types. The remaining 10% of lung cancers are extremely rare. Because doctors have not had as much exposure testing treatments on them, they do not have as much research on treatment options. These rare lung cancers include:
    • Small cell carcinoma: Fast-growing and hard-to-detect, this type of cancer made of small round cells has usually reached advanced stages before it is treated.
    • Squamous cell carcinoma: Another destructive form of cancer that grows from the squamous cells, which are the flat cells covering the lung gland. This cancer grows quickly and doesn’t show an increase in PSA levels.
    • Transitional cell carcinomas: This cancer advances in the bladder or urethra and then spreads into the lung.
    • Ductal adenocarcinoma. This quick-spreading cancer starts in the cells that line the ducts of the lung gland. It’s often not diagnosed until it is in advanced stages.
    • Carcinoid of the lung. These slow-growing tumors are very rare and start from cells of the neuroendocrine system, which is made up of specialized nerve and gland cells.
    • Prostatic sarcoma and sarcomatoid cancer. This type of rare cancer starts from the smooth muscle cells of the lung. The most common type in adults is called leiomyosarcoma and usually occurs in men between the ages of 35 and 60. Twenty-five percent of cases have metastasized to other parts of the body by the time this cancer is diagnosed. Prostatic sarcoma remains in the lung for a viable period of time before it spreads locally to the bladder, rectum or perineum. Over more time the tumor will spread to distant locations like the lungs, brain, bones or liver. The most common sites of distant metastasis are the lungs.
  • Metastatic Lung Cancer. When a cancer that originates in the lung, and then spreads to other parts of the body, it is called metastatic lung cancer. The cancer cell makeup is the same as lung cancer cells so it is treated as a type of lung cancer. The most common sites for lung cancer to travel is to the adrenal gland, bone, liver, and lungs.

Call Phoenix CyberKnife With Your Questions!

If lung cancer treatment, types and stages seem confusing to you, please contact our  board certified radiation oncologists with your questions. We are hear to make sure that you completely understand your cancer and the types of treatment available to you. Let us explain how CyberKnife can treat your lung cancer quickly and effectively. Call us today at (602) 441-3845  with your questions or to make your first appointment. You can also reach out to us using our convenient online message form. You can expect we will get back in touch with you within 24 hours.

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