Types of Lung Cancer


There are two major types of lung cancer:

  1. non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC);
  2. small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

About 85 percent of lung cancers are Non-Small Cell (NSCLC) and there are three main types of these:

  • Adenocarcinoma, the most common form of lung cancer in the United States among both men and women;
  • Squamous cell carcinoma, which accounts for 25 percent of all lung cancers;
  • Large cell carcinoma, which accounts for about 10 percent of NSCLC tumors.

There are four stages of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer:

  1. Stage I: The cancer is located only in the lungs and has not spread to any lymph nodes.
  2. Stage II: The cancer is in the lung and nearby lymph nodes.
  3. Stage III: Cancer is found in the lung and in the lymph nodes in the middle of the chest, also called locally advanced disease.
  4. Stage IV: This is the most advanced stage of lung cancer, and is also described as advanced disease. This is when the cancer has spread to both lungs, to fluid in the area around the lungs, or to another part of the body, such as the liver or other organs.

Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small cell lung cancer accounts for the remaining 15 percent of lung cancers in the United States. They tend to grow more quickly than NSCLC tumors. Usually, SCLC is more responsive to chemotherapy than NSCLC.

Stages of Small Cell Lung Cancer

  • Limited stage: In this stage, cancer is found on one side of the chest, involving just one part of the lung and nearby lymph nodes.
  • Extensive stage: In this stage, cancer has spread to other regions of the chest or other parts of the body.

Treating Lung Cancer

Surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted treatments (many in clinical trials) and immunotherapy—alone or in combination—are used to treat lung cancer. Each of these types of treatments may cause different side effects.