Lung CancerLung Cancer Types

Let's Talk About Lung Cancer Types

That’s right, there isn’t just one—but more than a dozen—different types and subtypes of lung cancer you can get. We asked the experts to walk us through the multiple variations of this challenging disease.

    Our Pro PanelLung Cancer Types

    We went to some of the nation’s top experts in lung cancer to bring you the most up-to-date information possible.

    Jacob Sands, M.D.

    Jacob Sands, M.D.Thoracic Medical Oncologist and Instructor in Medicine

    Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School
    Boston, MA
    Elisabeth Dexter, M.D.

    Elisabeth Dexter, M.D.Thoracic Surgeon and Quality Assurance Officer for the Department of Thoracic Surgery

    Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center
    Buffalo, NY
    Josephine (Joy) Feliciano, M.D. headshot.

    Josephine (Joy) Feliciano, M.D.Medical Oncologist, Assistant Professor of Oncology

    The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
    Baltimore, MD

    Frequently Asked QuestionsLung Cancer Types

    Can gene mutations happen in both smokers and never-smokers?

    Yes. However, with smokers, gene changes related to lung cancer are often not inherited. Instead, they develop because of exposure to things like cancer-causing chemicals in tobacco. And sometimes gene mutations may simply occur randomly without an identifiable cause.

    Is large cell carcinoma the same thing as undifferentiated lung cancer?

    No, although the terms are sometimes incorrectly used interchangeably. Neither large cell carcinoma nor undifferentiated lung cancer contain characteristics that would easily identify them as, say, squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, or any other type of NSCLC.

    Is a cancer that has spread to the lungs considered lung cancer?

    No. Cancer is diagnosed by its place of origin, so in this case, lungs are a secondary malignancy of the original cancer.

    I was told that NSCLC can turn into SCLC. Can that be true?

    Yes. Sometimes non-small cell lung cancers that are EGFR-positive can evolve into small cell lung cancer.

    Holly Pevzner

    Holly Pevzner


    Holly Pevzner is a health writer whose work has appeared in many publications, including EatingWell and Prevention.