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Lung Cancer Types

Getting an early, accurate lung cancer diagnosis is the first step to successful treatment. Your diagnosis includes details about the type of lung cancer you have. Our doctors use this information to create a personalized treatment plan that improves your outcome.

There are two main lung cancer types:

  • Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): This category of lung cancer includes adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large-cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma. Find out more about non-small cell lung cancer.
  • Small cell lung cancer (SCLC): This category of lung cancer includes small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer) and combined small cell carcinoma. Learn more about small cell lung cancer.

Why Choose Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center for Lung Cancer Care

Our lung cancer experts offer hope, compassion and answers. Lung cancer is a complex disease, which can mean many twists and turns during treatment. But our oncology-certified nurse navigators are with you through it all. Your lung cancer nurse navigator helps you get the right tests fast and closer to home, manage financial concerns, prepare for treatment and more.

Meet the oncology nurse navigators

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What Is the Most Common Type of Lung Cancer?

Non-small cell lung cancers are much more common than small cell lung cancers. Non-small cell lung cancers account for 84 percent of all lung cancers. Adenocarcinoma alone accounts for 40 percent of all lung cancers.

How Are Lung Cancers Classified?

Lung cancer type is determined by how tumor cells look under a microscope. The cells differ in size, shape and chemical make-up.

Doctors called pathologists examine the microscopic tumor tissue and create a report. Your pathology report includes vital information about the tumor.

At the Abramson Cancer Center, dedicated pulmonary pathologists study lung tissue samples. Pulmonary pathologists are pathologists who specialize in diagnosing lung diseases. Their expertise helps create a more detailed picture of the cancer and its unique characteristics. This level of detail often improves treatment plans and prognoses. We are one of the only places in Philadelphia where more than one dedicated pulmonary pathologist can weigh in on your diagnosis.

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