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Answers for Patients with NSCLC and SCLC Lung Cancer

Navigate Lung Cancer FAQ's

Understanding Lung Cancer

Cancer Risks, Causes, and Fuels 

Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis

Metastasis, Spread, and Staging

Prognosis and Survival Rates

Symptoms and Skin Concerns

Hear From Lung Cancer Patients

Understanding Lung Cancer

Q: What Are The Different Types of Lung Cancer?

A: There are primarily two main types of lung cancer, which are categorized based on the appearance of lung cancer cells under a microscope. These are Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) and Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC). NSCLC is the most common type, accounting for about 80-85% of cases, and includes subtypes such as adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. SCLC is less common, making up about 15-20% of lung cancers, and tends to grow and spread more quickly than NSCLC.

Q: What Does A Lung Cancer Diagnosis Mean?

A: A lung cancer diagnosis means that malignant cells have been found in the lung tissue. This diagnosis prompts a detailed assessment to determine the type of lung cancer, its stage, and the best treatment options. Treatment plans may include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of these treatments, depending on the specific type and stage of lung cancer.

Q: How Common is Lung Cancer?

A: Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers worldwide. It is the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women in the United States, accounting for more deaths each year than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.

At Sunridge Medical, our commitment is to provide patients with comprehensive information and options for managing their lung cancer diagnosis. Should you have any further inquiries regarding Lung Cancer or other health concerns, please consult with one of our physicians and speak to our Patient Care Team at 1-800-923-7878.

Lung Cancer Risks, Causes, and Fuels

Q: How Do You Get Lung Cancer?

A: Lung cancer is primarily caused by smoking tobacco which increases with the amount and length of time of tobacco use.

Non-smokers can also develop lung cancer due to exposure to:

  • secondhand smoke
  • radon gas
  • asbestos
  • air pollution
  • inhalation of other carcinogens

Additionally, a small percentage of lung cancer cases are due to genetic factors.

Q: Is Lung Cancer The Worst Cancer You Can Get?

A: While it’s not accurate to classify any cancer as “the worst,” lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths. Its prognosis can be particularly challenging, especially if diagnosed at a late stage. However, outcomes vary significantly based on the type of lung cancer, its stage at diagnosis, and the patient’s overall health.

Q: Can Lung Cancer Be Hereditary?

A: Yes, lung cancer can be hereditary, although it is relatively rare. Families with a history of lung cancer may possess genetic mutations that increase their risk. However, environmental and lifestyle factors play a more significant role in the development of lung cancer for most people.

Q: What Fuels Lung Cancer?

A: Lung cancer is primarily fueled by the mutation of normal lung cells into cancerous cells, often triggered by carcinogens such as those found in tobacco smoke. These carcinogens damage the DNA in lung cells, leading to abnormal cell growth. Other factors, such as genetic predispositions and exposure to environmental toxins, can also contribute to the development and progression of lung cancer.

Diagnosis and Misdiagnosis of Lung Cancer 

Q: Can Lung Cancer Be Misdiagnosed?

A: Yes, lung cancer can sometimes be misdiagnosed, particularly in its initial stages. Call our Patient Care Team at 1-800-923-7878 to schedule a second opinion with Sunridge Medical. Misdiagnosis can occur due to the similarity of its symptoms (such as coughing, weight loss, shortness of breath, and chest pains) with those of other respiratory conditions like pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, tuberculosis, encysted lung effusion, lung abscesses, lung nodules, pulmonary embolism, and Valley Fever.  

Even acid reflux,  Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GeRD), Lymphoma or Thoracic Hodgkin’s disease may be misdiagnosed as Lung Cancer.

Additionally, imaging tests used to detect lung cancer, such as chest X-rays or CT scans, might not always clearly distinguish cancer from other lung issues, like benign tumors or infections. To reduce the likelihood of a misdiagnosis, doctors should use a combination of diagnostic methods, including advanced imaging techniques, biopsies, and molecular testing, to accurately identify and classify lung cancer.

Q: Can Valley Fever Present As Lung Cancer?

A: Yes, Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis), a fungal infection caused by the Coccidioides species and particularly associated with patients from the Valley of the Sun, can sometimes present with symptoms and radiological findings that resemble those of lung cancer. Symptoms like cough, fever, chest pain, and fatigue are common to both conditions. On chest X-rays or CT scans, Valley Fever can produce nodules, cavities, or infiltrates in the lungs that might be mistaken for lung cancer. Due to these similarities, further diagnostic testing, such as sputum cultures, blood tests specific for Valley Fever, or even biopsies, may be necessary to differentiate between the two conditions. Accurate diagnosis is crucial since the treatments for Valley Fever and lung cancer are significantly different.

 Q: Can NSCLC Be Misdiagnosed As SCLC Lung Cancer?

 A: Yes, Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) can potentially be misdiagnosed as Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC), although such instances are relatively rare due to the distinct characteristics and biomarkers of each type. The differentiation between NSCLC and SCLC is crucial for determining the appropriate treatment strategy, as these cancer types have different treatment protocols and prognoses. Misdiagnosis can occur due to sampling errors during biopsy, the quality of the specimen obtained, or interpretation errors under microscopic examination. Advanced diagnostic techniques, including immunohistochemistry and molecular testing, have improved the accuracy of distinguishing between NSCLC and SCLC. These tests can identify specific markers that are typically present in one type but not the other, thus reducing the likelihood of misdiagnosis.

 Q: Can SCLC Lung Cancer Be Diagnosed As NSCLC?

 A: Yes, Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) can sometimes be misdiagnosed as Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer due to various factors, including the interpretation of biopsy samples and the overlapping characteristics of these two main types of lung cancer. Diagnosing lung cancer accurately is critical since SCLC and NSCLC have different treatment approaches and prognoses. The misinterpretation can happen if the biopsy sample is too small, not representative of the entire tumor, or if there’s a lack of clear distinguishing features under microscopic examination. However, advancements in diagnostic technologies, such as immunohistochemistry tests that can detect specific cellular markers and molecular genetic testing, have significantly improved the accuracy of diagnosing and differentiating between SCLC and NSCLC, thereby reducing the chances of such misdiagnoses.

Q: Can I Get A Second Opinion Of My Lung Cancer?

A: Absolutely. A second opinion can offer you peace of mind and confirm the diagnosis and recommended treatment plan. In matters of health, and particularly with something as serious as Lung Cancer, it’s important to feel confident in your care approach. Gathering insights from another oncologist or a specialist center familiar with lung cancer can ensure you have considered all perspectives and treatment options. At Sunridge Medical, we welcome patients seeking a second opinion, and we’re dedicated to providing thorough evaluations to inform your treatment decisions.  Call our Patient Care Team to set an appointment for a second opinion at 1-800-923-7878.

Remember, it’s important to consult with healthcare professionals if you have been diagnosed with Lung Cancer or if you have any concerns about your diagnosis. An accurate and timely diagnosis is crucial for effective treatment and improved outcomes.

Metastasis and the Spread of Lung Cancer

In a diagnosis of metastatic lung cancer, it signifies that cancer has spread from the lungs to distant organs or tissues. The spread of lung cancer can occur in several ways:

  • Direct extension: The lung cancer invades nearby tissues within the chest.
  • Lymphatic spread: Cancer cells enter the lymphatic system and travel to nearby lymph nodes and then to other parts of the body.
  • Hematogenous spread: Cancer cells enter the bloodstream and travel to distant organs, such as the brain, liver, bones, or adrenal glands.

Metastasis is a critical factor that affects the staging, treatment, and prognosis of lung cancer. Once lung cancer has metastasized, it is considered advanced or Stage IV, and treatment strategies typically focus on managing symptoms and improving quality of life rather than curing the disease. Targeted therapies and immunotherapies have shown promise in treating certain types of lung cancer with specific genetic mutations, even in advanced stages.

Q: Is NSCLC More Aggressive Than SCLC Lung Cancer?

A: Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) is often considered more aggressive and dangerous than Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) due to several factors. SCLC typically grows and spreads more rapidly than NSCLC, often being diagnosed at an advanced stage when it has already metastasized to other parts of the body. This rapid progression makes it more challenging to treat effectively. Additionally, SCLC is more likely to respond initially to chemotherapy and radiation therapy; however, it also has a higher probability of recurrence after treatment. Despite these challenges, it’s important to note that the prognosis for any cancer, including SCLC, can vary greatly depending on a range of factors such as the stage at diagnosis, the patient’s overall health, and response to treatment.

Q: Where In The Body Does Lung Cancer Spread?

A: Lung cancer can spread to various parts of the body, but it most commonly metastasizes to specific regions due to the way cancer cells travel through the bloodstream and lymphatic system. The most common sites where lung cancer spreads include:

Brain: Symptoms may include headaches, seizures, or changes in vision or behavior.

Bones: Bone metastasis can cause pain, fractures, and elevated calcium levels in the blood, leading to further complications.

Liver: Signs of liver involvement might include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), abdominal pain, and abnormal liver function tests.

Adrenal glands: Often, adrenal metastasis may not cause symptoms and is detected through imaging tests.

Lymph nodes: Enlarged lymph nodes near the primary tumor or in areas like the neck or above the collarbone can indicate spread.

Other lung: The cancer can spread from one lung to the other, impacting respiratory function.

Pleura: The thin membrane surrounding the lungs (pleura) can be affected, potentially leading to pleural effusion, a condition where fluid accumulates around the lungs causing difficulty breathing.

The pattern of spread can vary depending on the type of lung cancer—Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC) or Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)—and its specific characteristics. Identifying where the lung cancer has spread is crucial for determining the appropriate treatment approach and assessing the prognosis.

Q: Can Lung Cancer Spread After Surgery?

A: Lung cancer can spread after surgery, although surgery aims to remove the cancerous tissue and possibly prevent further spread. There are a few scenarios where this might occur:

Microscopic Spread: At the time of surgery, microscopic cancer cells may already have spread beyond the primary tumor site but were undetected by imaging tests or during surgery. These cells can later grow and form new tumors in other parts of the body.

Incomplete Resection: If the surgery does not remove all the cancerous tissue, the remaining cells can continue to grow and potentially spread.

Surgical Dissemination: Although rare, cancer cells can theoretically spread during the process of surgical removal, especially if the tumor is handled roughly or if cancer cells enter the bloodstream or lymphatic system during the procedure.

Natural Progression: Even after successful surgery, lung cancer can recur or metastasize as part of its natural progression, particularly if it was at an advanced stage before the surgery or if there are underlying genetic and molecular factors that promote cancer growth and spread.

To mitigate these risks, doctors often recommend additional treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or alternative targeted therapy after surgery (adjuvant therapy) to eliminate any remaining cancer cells, reduce the risk of recurrence, and address potential microscopic metastases. Regular follow-up appointments and monitoring through imaging tests and blood work are crucial for detecting any signs of recurrence or spread as early as possible.

Q: Does Lung Cancer Always Come Back?

A: Lung cancer does not always come back after treatment, but there is a risk of recurrence, which can vary depending on several factors:

Type of Lung Cancer: Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) generally has a higher recurrence rate compared to Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC).

Stage at Diagnosis: Early-stage lung cancers that are detected and treated before they have spread have a lower risk of recurrence than advanced-stage cancers.

Quality of Surgical Resection: For operable lung cancer, the completeness of the tumor removal during surgery plays a critical role. A complete resection, where all visible cancer is removed, reduces the risk of recurrence.

Response to Treatment: Patients whose cancer responds well to treatment (chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, alternative therapy or immunotherapy) may have a lower risk of recurrence.

Genetic and Molecular Characteristics: Certain genetic mutations or molecular characteristics of the cancer cells can influence the likelihood of recurrence.

Even with these factors, predicting recurrence for an individual case is challenging. A patient should undergo regular follow-up appointments after completing treatment.

It’s also important to differentiate between a recurrence (cancer coming back after treatment) and progression (cancer continuing to grow or spread during treatment). Both scenarios are managed differently based on the specific circumstances of each patient.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle and following medical advice for regular health monitoring play essential roles in managing the risk of lung cancer recurrence. Sunridge Medical has many options for boosting the immune system and helping contribute to a more healthy lifestyle. Speak to our Patient Care Team today at 1-800-923-7878.


Prognosis and Survival Rates of Lung Cancer

Q: Can You Survive NSCLC Lung Cancer?

A: Yes, survival rates for Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) vary depending on the stage at diagnosis, overall health, and response to treatment. Early-stage NSCLC has a higher survival rate due to more treatment options available that can be curative. According to the American Cancer Society, following are the 5-Year Relative Survival Rates for NSCLC.

SEER stage5-year relative survival rate
All SEER stages combined28%

Q: Can You Survive SCLC Lung Cancer?

A: Survival for Small Cell Lung Cancer SCLC depends on the stage at diagnosis and how well the cancer responds to treatment. SCLC is more aggressive than NSCLC, but treatment can lead to remission in some cases, especially if caught early. According to the American Cancer Society, following are the 5-Year Relative Survival Rates for

SEER stage5-year relative survival rate
All SEER stages combined7%

Q: Does Lung Cancer Always Return?

A: Lung cancer does not always return, but there is a risk of recurrence. The likelihood of recurrence depends on factors such as the type of lung cancer, stage at diagnosis, and completeness of initial treatment. Regular follow-ups are important for early detection of any recurrence.

Please note, if you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, or are seeking information for someone who is, it is critical to speak directly with a healthcare provider. You can reach our Patient Care Team at 800-923-7878

They can offer the most accurate and personalized guidance tailored to your specific medical case. Sunridge Medical is committed to providing up-to-date and comprehensive care for our patients with Lung Cancer.

Q: How Long Can You Live with NSCLC Cancer?

A: The survival time can vary widely among individuals with NSCLC, depending on the stage of cancer, the effectiveness of treatment, and the patient’s overall health. Some may live many years after diagnosis, especially if the cancer is detected at an early stage and treated promptly.

Q: How Long Can You Live with SCLC Cancer?

A: Survival times for SCLC vary significantly. Early-stage disease treated aggressively may result in longer survival, but generally, SCLC has a shorter survival time due to its aggressive nature. Advances in treatments continue to improve outcomes and prolong life for some patients.

Q: Can Lung Cancer Recur After 5 Years?

A: Yes, lung cancer can recur after 5 years, though the risk decreases over time. Continued monitoring is important even after five years, as late recurrences, although less common, can happen.

Q: Can Lung Cancer Patients Live 10 Years?

A: Yes, some lung cancer patients can live 10 years or more, especially those with early-stage diseases who receive effective treatment. Survival rates have been improving with advances in cancer treatment, including targeted therapies and immunotherapies.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer 

Q: What Are the Most Common Symptoms With Lung Cancer?         

A: The most common symptoms of lung cancer include a persistent cough, coughing up blood, chest pain, shortness of breath, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue. Early stages of lung cancer may not present any symptoms, which is why it’s often diagnosed at a more advanced stage.

Q: What Can Be Done to Help With the Symptoms of Lung Cancer?  

A: Managing symptoms of lung cancer typically involves a combination of treatments aimed at the cancer itself, like chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapies, immunotherapy and supportive care measures to relieve specific symptoms. This can include pain management, respiratory therapy to ease breathing difficulties, nutritional support, and palliative care to improve quality of life.

It is essential to communicate regularly with your healthcare provider about any new or worsening skin problems so they can propose a plan that accommodates your individual needs throughout your treatment for Lung Cancer. If you need additional care, please call Sunridge Medical at 1-800-923-7878.

Hear From Our Lung Cancer Patients


Sue Ann, Phoenix, Arizona

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After working in a hospital for 15 years as an oncology nurse and being diagnosed with Cancer, Roslyn new chemotherapy was not the answer for her. “The journey of 1000 miles starts with a single step”…she got in her car with her three children and husband and made the journey from New York to Sunridge Medical in Arizona. Within three weeks of her first treatment, the tumor started to change.

Roslyn, New York



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