Carcinomas of the lungs are divided into non small-cell (NSCLC) and small-cell (SCLC) types. A form of NSCLC, squamous lung cancer begins in the squamous cells found in the tissue lining of the airways. The location of the malignancy presents particular obstacles to treatment.
Signs and Symptoms
Squamous cell is closely associated with cigarette smoking, as are most types of lung carcinomas. It is also known as epidermoid carcinoma. Malignant cells tend to grow in the main bronchi where the trachea and lungs meet. As with other types of NSCLC, squamous cell grows slowly. Symptoms of coughing up blood or developing hoarseness in the voice are related to this form of cancer.
Cancers close to the airways can cause additional symptoms such as ‘pancoast syndrome’. This problem is signified by pain radiating down the arm from the shoulder, prickly sensations in the fingers and hands, or ‘Horner’s Syndrome’ which causes a droopy eyelid. Hypercalcemia is another possible side effect of squamous cell carcinoma. This symptom elevates calcium levels causing weakness and cramping muscles.
During a routine physical examination, chest x-rays which show abnormalities will be investigated for cancer. A sputum cytology performed on a sample from the airways is effective for detecting cancer cells. Additional methods to confirm suspected cancer include chest x-rays using 3D imaging such as CT scans or PET scans. A biopsy sample will generally be taken to learn more about the malignant cells.
Diagnostic tests will determine the measurement of tumors, if the cells have metastasized and if the lymphatic system is now involved. A stage from 1a to 4 will be assigned based on evaluation of these factors. Treatment is then scheduled to cure the patient.
A person with an early stage squamous-cell tumor has a good chance it can be removed with surgery. This chance is reduced if the tumor has grown to larger than 3 centimeters or is invading local organs or blood vessels. Doctors may use surgical resection combined with chemotherapy to cure the patient. Radiation doses may also be used to alleviate symptoms of the disease, especially in patients with advanced stage lung cancer.