Types of Lung Cancer

Learning that you have lung cancer can be overwhelming. With so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to start. Here is some information to help you understand lung cancer and what you may experience going forward.


Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC):

Most people with lung cancer are diagnosed with NSCLC (about 85% of lung cancers are this type). NSCLC starts in the lung’s larger cells, such as the ones that line the airways or produce mucus. There are 3 types of NSCLC: squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma:
Forms from flat cells on the inside of lung airways, and is usually found in the middle of the lungs. Often linked to a history of smoking. About 25% to 30% of lung cancers are this type.
Grows slowly on the outside parts of the lung. This type occurs more frequently in women than in men, and more frequently in nonsmokers and younger people. About 40% of lung cancers are this type.
Large cell carcinoma:
Fast-growing cancer found anywhere in the lung. About 10% to 15% of lung cancers are this type.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC):

This type is much less common and accounts for about 10% to 15% of lung cancers. It starts in small, hormone-releasing cells.


In your body, you have a right and left lung. These organs are spongy, which helps them to be able to inflate and deflate with each breath. The right lung has three sections, and these are called lobes. The left lung has only two lobes and is a little smaller; this allows it to make room for your heart. Your lungs and heart are protected by your ribcage.

A diagram of a lung

When you take a breath, air goes through the trachea, which is also known as your windpipe. Smaller tube-like structures called bronchi branch out from the windpipe and enter your lungs. Air is moved in and out of your lungs by your diaphragm, which is a muscle that sits under your lungs.


Lung cancer starts in the cells of the lungs. As it progresses, it can grow into other parts of your body. It can also spread to your lymph nodes, which are small, bean-shaped masses of tissue that are located in and around the lungs. When lung cancer is found in the lymph nodes, there's a chance that the cancer may be in other places in the body as well.