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Doctor speaking with patient about lung cancer

Large cell carcinoma is the least common type of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), comprising about 10% to 15% of all NSCLC diagnoses. It describes multiple large cell lung cancers that cannot be categorized into specific subtypes, and tends to grow and spread more rapidly than other forms of lung cancer.

Large cell carcinoma is named according to the cancer cells’ large appearance under a microscope. It can develop anywhere in the lungs, although it’s most commonly found around the lung’s outer edges.

What are the symptoms of large cell carcinoma?

Large cell carcinoma shares many of the same symptoms as other types of NSCLC. These symptoms may include, but are not limited to:

  • A stubborn cough that gradually worsens
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing up blood or bloody mucus
  • Voice hoarseness
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Reduced appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Recurring bouts of pneumonia or bronchitis  

Additionally, large cell carcinoma that has spread (metastasized) to other parts of the body can trigger symptoms such as:   

  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • Back pain or pain that affects the bones
  • Headaches or vision changes  
  • Seizures

While many signs of large cell carcinoma (such as coughing and fatigue) are general symptoms that are most likely from non-cancerous conditions, only a medical professional can identify their cause and prescribe appropriate treatment. Individuals who are experiencing possible symptoms of lung cancer should consult with a physician without delay. As is the case with virtually all types of cancer, diagnosing large cell carcinoma in an early stage is key to achieving a positive outcome and quality of life.

Can large cell carcinoma be prevented?  

There is no way to definitively prevent large cell carcinoma or any type of cancer. However, avoiding activities that increase the risk of developing lung cancer can help.  

Without question, smoking is the leading cause of lung cancer. It’s estimated that more than 80% of lung cancer deaths are attributed to smoking—and roughly 7,000 lung cancer deaths every year are associated with secondhand smoke. By quitting smoking, a person can significantly lower his or her risk of lung cancer and help their loved ones maintain good lung health, as well.

Other risk factors for large cell carcinoma and lung cancer include:

  • A family history of lung cancer
  • Frequent exposure to air pollution
  • Prolonged workplace exposure to asbestos
  • Receiving radiation therapy in the past 

Individuals with one or more lung cancer risk factors should be especially mindful of possible symptoms and promptly inform their medical provider if they occur.

How is large cell carcinoma treated?  

Large cell carcinoma is an aggressive malignancy that is difficult to treat. However, recent advancements in lung cancer treatments are improving outcomes and quality of life for patients with this disease.

The most effective large cell carcinoma treatment plans are individualized to each patient. Many treatment approaches include a combination of:

  • Surgery to remove a tumor, the affected lung lobe or the entire lung
  • Chemotherapy to help destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors using powerful medications
  • Radiation therapy to attack cancer cells through precisely delivered radiation beams
  • Immunotherapy to fight cancer by harnessing the patient’s own immune system 
  • Targeted therapies to disrupt cancer growth while sparing healthy lung cells  

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Thoracic Oncology Program is home to a diverse team of specialists who focus exclusively on lung cancers. And as a high-volume cancer center, Moffitt features physicians who possess unmatched experience evaluating and treating uncommon malignancies such as large cell carcinoma.  

To schedule an appointment at Moffitt or receive a second opinion, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online. You will receive a response from a member of our team as quickly as possible.