Non-small cell lung cancer

Each year in the United States, more than 226,000 people are diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. There are several different types of this cancer.

Each type of non-small cell lung cancer has different kinds of cancer cells. The cancer cells of each type grow and spread in different ways. The types of non-small cell lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look under a microscope:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are flat cells that line the inside of the lung’s airways. This is also called epidermoid carcinoma.
  • Large cell carcinoma: Cancer that may begin in several types of large cells and can develop anywhere in the lung.
  • Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in the outer region of the lung, in cells that line the alveoli (tiny air sacs where the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide takes place).

Other less common types of non-small cell lung cancer are: pleomorphic, carcinoid tumor, salivary gland carcinoma, and unclassified carcinoma.