When your doctor talked with you about your specific type of lung cancer, it might have been difficult to absorb all the details, terms and phrases. It’s normal for information to feel overwhelming. And it is important for you to be familiar with the types and stages of lung cancer, and how certain treatments may help.

Generally, there are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

About 85% of lung cancer cases are NSCLC. NSCLC starts in the larger cells in the lungs, like the ones that line the lung’s airways and produce mucus.

There are 3 types of NSCLC:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is usually found in the middle of the lungs and forms from flat cells on the inside of lung airways. People who have a history of smoking are more likely to have this type of NSCLC. About 25% to 30% of lung cancers are squamous cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma occurs more frequently in women than men and grows slowly on the outside parts of the lung. It is also more common in non-smokers and younger people than other types of lung cancer. About 40% of lung cancers are adenocarcinoma
  • Large cell carcinoma is a fast-growing cancer found anywhere in the lung. About 10%-15% of lung cancers are large cell carcinoma

Small Cell Lung Cancer

SCLC is much less common than NSCLC and starts in small, hormone-releasing cells. SCLC accounts for about 10% to 15% of lung cancers. It grows and spreads more aggressively than NSCLC.

Learn more about small cell lung cancer.