About Lung Cancer

Two major types of lung cancer exist: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which is the most common, and small cell lung cancer (SCLC), an aggressive cancer that occurs in just over 10 percent of all lung cancer cases.

Lung Cancer Symptoms

Both major types of lung cancer have similar symptoms. These symptoms often include a cough that doesn't go away and shortness of breath.

Sometimes lung cancer does not cause any signs or symptoms. It may be found during a chest X-ray done for another condition. Signs and symptoms may be caused by lung cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time
  • Trouble breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Blood in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs)
  • Hoarseness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss for no known reason
  • Tiredness/lethargy
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck

For both conditions, early detection through a low-dose computed topography (CT) scan is especially critical. Identifying lung cancer in its earliest stages even before you have symptoms can reduce the risk of death by 20 percent, according to recent studies. Fox Chase Cancer Center has a lung cancer screening program that can provide same-day results from your CT scan.

Detect Cancer Before Symptoms

Photograph of special x-ray equipment used for Low Dose CT Scans for lung cancer
This imaging test takes less than five minutes and can detect lung cancer when it is most treatable – before you have symptoms.

Lung Cancer Screenings →

Non-small cell lung Cancer (NSCLC)

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of cancer in lung tissues. Your risk of developing this disease increases if you are a longtime or former smoker, have been exposed to passive smoke, or have had environmental or occupational exposure to radon, asbestos, uranium, and other substances. The primary types of NSCLC are named for the type of cells found in the cancer:

  • Squamous-cell carcinoma (also called epidermoid carcinoma)
  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Large-cell carcinoma
  • Adenosquamous carcinoma
  • Undifferentiated carcinoma

Learn more about non-small cell lung cancer.

Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)

In small cell lung cancer (SCLC), small cancerous cells arise in the airway, usually in a central location. This is an aggressive cancer that spreads quickly throughout the body through the blood and lymphatic (node) systems. Typically occurring in people who smoke or who used to smoke, SCLC accounts for just over 10 percent of all lung cancers.

Learn more about small cell lung cancer.