I've Been Diagnosed. Now What?

Learning that you have lung cancer can be scary. There's so much information out there—from so many viewpoints—where do you go first? What does it all mean? Here is some information to help you understand a little better what you're up against and what you may experience going forward.

Types of Lung Cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer:

Type 1 — Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC):

About 85% of people are diagnosed with this type of lung cancer. These include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma:
Flat cells on the inside of lung airways, usually found in the middle of the lungs. Often caused by smoking. About 25% of lung cancer is this type.
Grows slowly on the outside lung parts. This type occurs more frequently in women, nonsmokers, and the young. About 40% of lung cancer is this kind.
Large cell carcinoma:
Fast-growing cancer found anywhere in the lung. It is challenging to treat. About 10% of lung cancers are this type.

Type 2 — Small cell lung cancer (SCLC):

This type is much less common and accounts for about 10-15% of lung cancer.

Your lungs: what you should know

In your body, you have a right and left lung. These organs are spongy, in order to inflate and deflate with each breath. The right lung has three sections, called "lobes." The left lung has only two lobes and is a little smaller 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, or your windpipe. There are smaller tube-like structures called bronchi that are found inside your lungs. Air is forced into and out of your lungs by your diaphragm, which is a muscle that sits right beneath your lungs.

Lung cancer starts from the cells of the lung, and as it progresses it can grow into surrounding structures, and spread into the body's small, bean-shaped tissue called lymph nodes that surround the bronchi. 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.