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Lung Cancers

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) together account for approximately 95 percent of all lung cancers while mesothelioma accounts for about 5 percent.

Lung nodules

Lung nodules are small masses of tissue. They may be benign, pre-cancerous, or metastatic tumors that have spread from other parts of the body. Generally, a larger nodule is more likely to be cancerous than a smaller one.

Lung nodules are often found when a patient is being tested for unrelated symptoms, such as abdominal pain or an injury.

Johns Hopkins created a Lung Cancer Screening/Pulmonary Nodule Clinic to screen for nodules and other indicators of pre-cancer or cancer development. Through low-dose helical CT scans, people at risk of developing lung cancer can be screened and tracked so cancer can be caught in the early stages, offering the promise of a better prognosis than lung cancers caught later.

The Lung Cancer Screening/Pulmonary Nodule Clinic specializes in:

  • Personalized lung cancer risk assessment and recommendations for screening
  • Treatment plans for patients with lung nodules
  • Long-term nodule surveillance

Non-small cell lung cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer. It grows and spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer. The three main kinds of non-small cell lung cancer are named for the type of cells in the tumor:

  • Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of lung cancer in the United States and usually begins along the outer sections of the lungs. It is also the most common type of lung cancer in people who have never smoked.
  • Large cell carcinomas are a group of cancers with large, abnormal-looking cells. These tumors may begin anywhere in the lungs and tend to grow quickly.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma is also called epidermoid carcinoma. It often begins in the bronchi near the middle of the lungs.

Small cell lung cancer

Almost all cases of small cell lung cancer are due to cigarette smoking. It is a fast-growing cancer that spreads much more quickly than other types of lung cancer. There are two different types of small cell lung cancer:

  • Small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer)
  • Combined small cell carcinoma

Most SCLCs are of the oat cell type.

Metastasized cancer

Some cancers in the lung are the result of pulmonary metastasis—cancer that began in another part of the body and spread to the lung through the lymphatic system or bloodstream. Almost any cancer can metastasize to the lung. Some cancers that often do spread to the lung are:

  • Bladder cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Neuroblastoma
  • Prostate cancer
  • Sarcoma
  • Wilm's tumor

Stages of lung cancer

When lung cancer is diagnosed, the doctor includes information about the stage of the cancer, or the extent to which it has spread and the size of the tumor. The tumor stage helps to guide treatment and prognosis (outcome of an illness). When testing for cancer, doctors will look at nearby lymph nodes, tissue, and organs as well to see if cancer is present.

Find out more

For an appointment and answers to your questions

As a leading treatment center for lung cancer, Johns Hopkins offers its patients personalized care, specialized treatment, and pioneering therapies to extend life.

To make an appointment or if you have questions, call 410-955-LUNG (5864).


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