Lung Cancer Care

Home / For Patients / Cancer Care / Lung Cancer Care


There are three types of lung cancers. Knowing each type is important because it will affect treatment options and prognosis. Most lung cancer statistics include both small cell and non-small cell lung cancers.

  • Lung cancer accounts for 27% of all cancer deaths and is by far the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women.
  • Each year, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined.
  • About 220,000 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the United States (about 40,000 in men and 30,000 in women) in 2015.
  • Approximately 160,000 deaths from these cancers are expected in 2015.
  • Lung cancer mainly occurs in older people. About 2 out of 3 people diagnosed with lung cancer are 65 or older.
  • African American men are about 20% more likely to develop lung cancer than white men.

Source: Accessed on 24 Nov 2015. Last Medical Review: 08/15/2014  Last Revised: 03/04/2015

Types of Lung Cancer

A. Small Cell vs. Non-Small Cell

I. Small Cell – About 10 to 15 percent of all lung cancers are the small cell type (SCLC), named for the small cells that make up these cancers.  Small cell lung cancer is almost always caused by smoking.  SCLC tends to spread early outside the lung.  This is important because it means that surgery alone is rarely an option and never the only treatment given. Treatment must include drugs to kill the disease outside the lung. The cancer cells can d spread to lymph nodes and other organs, such as the bones, brain, adrenal glands, and liver and thus CT scan, MRI and PET imaging is very important for you to be fully evaluated. This type of cancer often starts in the bronchi near the center of the chest.

II. Non-Small Cell subtypes- About 85 percent of all lung cancers are of the non-small cell type. There are 3 sub-types of NSCLC. The cells in these sub-types differ in size, shape, and chemical make-up.

  • Squamous Cell Carcinoma: about 25 to 30 percent of all lung cancers are of this kind. They are linked to smoking and tend to be found near the bronchus.
  • Adenocarcinoma: this type accounts for about 40 percent of lung cancers. It is usually found in the outer part of the lung.
  • Large-Cell Undifferentiated Carcinoma: about 10 to 15 percent of lung cancers are this type. It can start in any part of the lung. It tends to grow and spread quickly.

Risk Factors

  1. Smoking – Tobacco smoke is the leading risk factor for lung cancer. It causes more than eight out of ten cases of lung cancer. The longer an individual has smoked and the more packs smoked per day the greater the risk of cancer.
  2. Asbestos – People who work with asbestos have a higher risk of getting lung cancer. If the individual is a smoker, the risk is even greater.
  3. Arsenic– High levels of arsenic found in drinking water may increase the risk of lung cancer. The effect is even greater for smokers.
  4. Radon– Found in the soils across the U.S., radon is a radioactive gas that is produced by the natural breakdown of uranium. This particular gas can not be seen, smelled or tasted. When radon becomes trapped indoors, it creates a greater risk for the development of lung cancer.
  5. Marijuana– Marijuana cigarettes contain more tar than regular cigarettes. Many cancer-causing substances that are found in tobacco are also found in marijuana.
  6. Radiation treatment to the lung– People who have undergone radiation treatment to parts of the body such as the chest have a greater risk of developing lung cancer.
  7. Personal and family history– A person who has had lung cancer has a high risk of developing another lung cancer. Siblings of and children of people who have had lung cancer may have a slighter risk of getting the cancer themselves.
  8. Diet– Studies show that people who are exposed to tobacco smoke who have a poor diet low in fruits and vegetables may have a high risk of developing lung cancer.
  9. Air pollution– In some cities, air pollution may slightly increase the risk of lung cancer.

Early Detection

Usually symptoms of lung cancer do not appear until the disease is in an advanced stage. But some lung cancers are diagnosed early because they are found as a result of tests for other medical conditions.

Symptoms of Lung Cancer

  1. A cough that does not go away
  2. Chest pain often made worse by deep breathing, coughing or laughing.
  3. Hoarseness
  4. Weight loss and loss of appetite
  5. Bloody or rust-colored sputum (spit or phlegm)
  6. Shortness of breath and new onset of wheezing
  7. Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that keep coming back


The best way to prevent lung cancer is not to smoke and to avoid secondary smoke exposure from others.

Smoking Cessation -The US Surgeon General has stated, “Smoking cessation (stopping smoking) represents the single most important step that smokers can take to enhance the length and quality of their lives.” Quitting smoking is not easy, but it can be done. To have the best chance of quitting successfully, you need to know what you’re up against, what your options are, and where to go for help.

Timing of health benefits:

  • 20 minutes after quitting: Your heart rate and blood pressure drops.
  • 12 hours after quitting: The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.
  • 2 weeks to 3 months after quitting: Your circulation improves and your lung function increases.
  • 1 to 9 months after quitting: Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hair-like structures that move mucus out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucus, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.
  • 1 year after quitting: The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of a smoker’s.
  • 5 years after quitting: Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.
  • 10 years after quitting: The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a continuing smoker’s. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas decrease.
  • 15 years after quitting: The risk of coronary heart disease is that of a nonsmoker’s.

Extent of benefit- Quitting helps stop the damaging effects of tobacco on your appearance including:

  • Premature wrinkling of the skin
  • Bad breath
  • Stained teeth
  • Gum disease
  • Bad smelling clothes and hair
  • Yellow fingernails
  • Decreased erectile function

Kicking the tobacco habit offers benefits that you’ll notice immediately and some that will develop gradually over time. These rewards can improve your day-to-day life immensely.

  • Food tastes better.
  • Your sense of smell returns to normal
    • Ordinary activities no longer leave you out of breath (for example, climbing stairs or light housework)

Programs to help stop smoking

  • Most states run some type of free telephone-based program, such as the American Cancer Society’s Quitline® tobacco cessation program that links callers with trained counselors.
  • Smokers can get help finding a Quitline® phone counseling program in their area by calling ACS at 1-800-ACS-2345 or 1-800-227-2345

Lung Cancer Treatment Options

IGRT (Image-Guided Radiation Therapy)

IMRT (Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy)

Respiratory Gating

Full-Body Stereotactic Radiosurgery