Squamous Cell Lung Carcinoma

Lung cancer can start from the cells lining the bronchi, bronchioles or alveoli. The major types of lung cancer include small cell lung cancer or SCLC and non-small cell lung cancer or NSCLC. Most lung cancers about 85%-90% are NSCLC. Squamous cell lung cancer, a kind of NSCLC, accounts for 25%-30% of all lung cancers. Here are important facts about squamous cell carcinoma.

What Is Squamous Cell Lung Carcinoma?

Also known as epidermoid carcinoma, this condition starts in the tissue lining the air passages in the lungs. Most of the squamous cell lung cancers are located centrally in the larger bronchi which join the trachea to the lung. Squamous cell carcinomas are linked to smoking more than other types of SCLCs. They affect men more than women and are slow-growing. Their location enables doctors to find them earlier than other lung cancers. The cases of this lung cancer have decreased while adenocarcinoma, another kind of non-small cell lung cancer, cases have been increasing in the recent years. The increase is associated with filters in cigarettes that allow smoker to inhale smoke deep into the lungs.

What Are the Symptoms of Squamous Cell Lung Carcinoma?

If you want to know if you have this kind of cancer, you have to know its main symptoms as listed below:

1. Symptoms Due to Airway Obstruction

The common lung cancer symptoms are wheezing, coughing up blood and a persistent cough. These symptoms appear earlier in case of squamous cell carcinomas than other lung cancers because the location of squamous cell carcinomas is near large airways. Obstruction of airways may lead to pneumonia or atelectasis which refers to the collapse of a part of the lung.

2. Symptoms Due to Complication

Squamous cell lung carcinomais the most common cause on pancoast which is also called superior sulcus syndrome. This condition results from lung cancers that start from top of lungs and spread to the structures nearby.

3. Other General Symptoms

Other symptoms of squamous cell lung cancer include:

  • Shoulder pain that spreads to the inside of arms
  • Prickly sensations or weakness in the hands
  • Horner's syndrome or droopy eyelids
  • Difficulty breathing or short breath
  • Fatigue, chest pain or hoarseness
  • Flushing or sweating on one side of the face
  • Poor appetite, discomfort when swallowing and unexplained weight loss
  • Hypercalcemia or high calcium levels, leading to muscle cramps and weakness

How to Diagnose Squamous Cell Lung Carcinoma

Abnormalities on an x-ray may indicate squamous cell carcinoma of the lungs. Further tests to confirm the cancer include:

  • Bronchoscopy
  • Endobronchial ultrasound
  • Chest CT scan
  • Sputum cytology: A sample of sputum is diagnosed to detect cancer cells because squamous cell carcinomas often spread to the airway.

The results of these tests lead to further tests on tissue samples to confirm the results and check if the cancer has spread to other body parts.

How to Deal With Squamous Cell Lung Carcinoma

The treatment of this form of cancer involves managing its symptoms and treating the cancer. The combination of treatment that your doctor may recommend includes:

1. Surgery

Surgery is recommended for an early-stage cancer and it gives the highest chances of cure. The procedure may include removing one part of the lung. Other forms of surgery involve freezing or using a heated needle or probe to destroy cancer cells.

2. Radiation Therapy

Radiation kills any cancer cells present in the lungs after surgery and treats cancers that cannot be treated through surgery. The radiation is derived from a high-energy beam outside the body that is focused on the cancer cells with a special machine. Alternatively, a radioactive substance is placed near the cancer cells or in other body parts.

3. Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy is given either as pills or as a liquid using a needle in your muscle or vein. The drug spread throughout your body to destroy cancer cells. Your doctor may put the drug in a specific organ, spinal fluid or a space in your body to kill cancer cells in that part. You can undergo chemotherapy before surgery to reduce the tumor, after surgery or both. You can also receive the therapy without surgery.

4. Targeted Therapy

Doctors use antibodies and drugs to hinder cancer cells from growing or spreading in specific ways. This therapy is less effective on normal cells than chemotherapy and radiation.

5. Laser and Photodynamic Therapy

This therapy involves killing cancer cells by turning on special drugs absorbed by cancer cells with a high-intensity laser light. This therapy prevents damage to healthy tissue.

Precautions of Squamous Cell Lung Carcinoma

For squamous cell lung cancer, there is a risk of the cancer recurring. Cancers cells can be left in the lungs after surgery, although surgeons take a margin of healthy tissue surrounding the cancer to ensure that cancer cells are not left behind.

In addition, doctors recommend chemotherapy and sometimes radiotherapy to reduce the risk of cancer recurring after surgery. Remember to consult about the stage of your cancer because cancer is more localized at an early stage and has a lower risk of coming back.

You can also find general information online about different stages of small and non-small cell lung cancer. You must consult a doctor to learn how your cancer will progress. A cancer diagnosis brings an uncertain future, so do find help and support from lung cancer organizations to help you cope with the disease.

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