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Diagnosis and Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Lung

written by: Roohi Khan • edited by: Emma Lloyd • updated: 8/18/2010

The second most common type of lung cancer is called squamous cell carcinoma of the lung. This article discusses the causes, symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, and treatment options for this type of lung cancer.

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    Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women across the world. Characterized by malignant cell growth in the tissues of lungs, it is basically of two types, namely, small cell lung carcinoma and non-small cell lung carcinoma. Among these two types of lung carcinomas, the non-small cell type is the most common and accounts for about 80% of the cases. Squamous cell carcinoma is a non-small cell type of lung cancer and is the second most common type of lung cancer.

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    Squamous cells are thin, flat cells that are present in the tissue that forms the surface of the skin, respiratory and digestive tracts, and the hollow organs of the body. Also known as epidermoid carcinoma, this type of cancer begins in these cells usually in the bronchial tubes in the central part of the lungs.

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    Like all lung cancers, squamous cell carcinoma may also not cause any symptoms in some cases. However, you should consult a doctor if you notice the following symptoms:

    • Shortness of breath,
    • A cough that does not go away,
    • Coughing up blood,
    • Wheezing,
    • Chest discomfort,
    • Hoarseness,
    • Loss of appetite and unexplained weight loss, and
    • Excessive fatigue
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    Causes and Risk Factors

    Smoking is one of the most common causes of squamous cell carcinoma of the lungs. The risk increases depending on factors such as the number of cigarettes you smoke in a day, how young you were when you began smoking, and for how many years have you been a smoker. Besides smoking, certain substances in the work or home environment can also put you at risk. These include asbestos, arsenic, dust and fumes from nickel and other metals, radiation therapy to the breast and chest, and radon.

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    A physician will begin with asking questions about an individual's medical history, health habits, and past and present jobs. This is followed by a physical examination and laboratory tests. A chest X-Ray, CT scan, PET scan, sputum cytology, FNA biopsy of the lung, bronchoscopy, and thoracoscopy are some of the tests and procedures that are used for diagnosing and monitoring the disease over time.

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    Available Treatment Options

    Just like the other types of non-small cell carcinoma of the lungs, current treatment options are not able to cure this type of cancer. However, current standard methods can be helpful for some patients and these include but are not limited to lobectomy, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, laser therapy, and cryosurgery. Patients should consider taking part in clinical trials that aim at improving current treatment methods or on testing new treatment options.

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    Patients may need to repeat some tests to see if the treatment is working or not and this will decide whether it needs to be continued, changed, or stopped. Once the treatment has ended, follow-up tests are usually done to check if the patient's condition has changed or if the cancer has come back.