Thomas Jefferson University

Lung Cancer

Quick Facts

Most lung cancers (about 87 percent) are non-small cell lung cancers. This type spreads more slowly than small cell lung cancer. About 13 percent of lung cancers are small cell lung cancers. This type tends to spread quickly. Risk factors include tobacco smoke, prolonged exposure to radon gas (people who work in mines are sometimes exposed to radon), asbestos, arsenic, chromium, nickel, soot, tar and other harmful substances, air pollution, family or personal history of lung cancer, and age over 65.


Cancer that forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages. The two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These types are diagnosed based on how the cells look under a microscope.

Occult stage: Lung cancer cells are found in sputum or in a sample of water collected during bronchoscopy, but a tumor cannot be seen in the lung.

Specialized Physicians:
Rita Axelrod, MD *
Avnish Bhatia, MD
Andrew E. Chapman, DO
Jennifer Johnson, MD, PhD
Michael J. Ramirez, MD
Lewis J. Rose, MD
Allison Zibelli, MD
Ralph Zinner, MD

*Practice Focus: Head/Neck/Lung Cancer

For further information contact:
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

Stage 0: Cancer cells are found only in the innermost lining of the lung. The tumor has not grown through this lining. A Stage 0 tumor is also called carcinoma in situ. The tumor is not an invasive cancer.

Stage I: The lung tumor is an invasive cancer, but cancer cells are not found in the lymph nodes.

Stage II: The lung tumor is an invasive cancer and cancer cells may be found in the lymph nodes or may have invaded the chest wall, pleura, bronchus, or tissue that surrounds the heart.

Stage III: The tumor can be of any size and cancer cells can be found in the lymph nodes  near the lungs and may be found on the opposite side of the chest or in the neck.

Stage IV: Malignant growths may be found in more than one lobe of the same lung or in the other lung. Or cancer cells may be found in other parts of the body, such as the brain, adrenal gland, liver, or bone.


Lung cancer is hard to control with current treatments. For that reason, many doctors encourage patients with this disease to consider taking part in a clinical trial. The choice of treatment depends mainly on the type of lung cancer and its stage. People with lung cancer may have surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, targeted therapy, or a combination of treatments. People with limited stage small cell lung cancer usually have radiation therapy and chemotherapy. For a very small lung tumor, a person may have surgery and chemotherapy. Most people with extensive stage small cell lung cancer are treated with chemotherapy only.

Reference: National Cancer Institute.