Lung Cancer Program

Expert lung cancer care using the latest options for diagnosis and treatment.

Pulmonologist doctor and lung cancer patient discuss recent diagnosis

What you need to know about lung cancer

Lung cancer is the leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. One reason is that most people don’t have symptoms of lung cancer until it is advanced and very difficult to treat. 

The survival rate for lung cancer varies depending on the stage and type of disease. Overall, 18 percent of lung cancer patients survive at least five years after their diagnosis, according to the National Cancer Institute.  

Types of lung cancer

Lung cancer is divided into 2 main types: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). These types grow and spread differently. They are often treated in different ways.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)
About 85% to 90% of lung cancers are non-small cell. This cancer has 3 major types. They are grouped by the kind of lung cell the cancer started in and by how the cells look under a microscope. They have slight differences among them. But they tend to have a similar outlook (prognosis) and are generally treated the same way:

  • Adenocarcinoma. This is the most common type of NSCLC. It's the most common type of lung cancer in nonsmokers and former or current smokers. It tends to grow in the outer edges of the lungs. It usually grows more slowly than other types of lung cancer. 
  • Squamous cell carcinoma (epidermoid carcinoma). This type of NSCLC develops more often in smokers or former smokers than lifetime nonsmokers. These cancers tend to start in the middle part of the lungs near the main airways (the bronchi).
  • Large cell carcinoma. This is the least common type of NSCLC. It tends to quickly grow and spread to other organs. This can make it harder to treat.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
Only about 1 in 10 to 3 in 20 people with lung cancer have small cell lung cancer. It is also called oat cell cancer. It is almost only found in smokers. It grows and spreads more quickly than non-small cell lung cancer. It often spreads to other parts of the body at an early stage.

Symptoms of lung cancer

Lung cancer often doesn't cause symptoms in its early stages. This is when it's small and hasn't spread. In fact, many lung cancers don't cause symptoms until they've already spread. 

When lung cancer does cause symptoms, they’re often like those you might have anyway if you smoke. For example, some early symptoms of lung cancer include shortness of breath and coughing.

These are some of the more common symptoms of lung cancer:

  • Cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse over time
  • Chest pain, which might be worse when coughing or breathing in deeply
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored mucus
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Appetite loss
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Pneumonia or bronchitis occurring more than normal for you


Some symptoms can be caused by lung cancer spreading to other parts of the body:

  • Trouble breathing that's getting worse
  • Bone pain
  • Belly or back pain
  • Yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Headache, seizures, or confusion
  • Weakness or numbness in an arm or leg
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Problems talking

Lung cancer experts

Legacy Cancer Institute, located in Portland, OR, ranks among the nation’s best cancer programs. We have a team of gynecological cancer specialists who work together to diagnose uterine and endometrial cancer, and develop a personalized treatment plan for you. Find the right provider and treatment close to home.

Legacy Cancer Institute is accredited as an integrated network cancer program by the American College of surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC). Learn more about our quality cancer care. 

Our team features some of the region’s most recognized specialists.

Next steps after a lung cancer diagnosis

Diagnosis typically starts with imaging tests such as a chest X-ray or CT scan. A series of additional tests are used to accurately diagnose the type and extent of lung cancer. These tests also help in deciding the type of treatment that may be most effective. 

Following a diagnosis of lung cancer, you may have more tests to help your doctor understand your cancer stage.

Cancer staging involves determining where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and if it is affecting other parts of your body. Knowing the stage allows you and your doctor to develop your personalized treatment plan.

Needle biopsy is a common way doctors gather more information to understand diagnosis and help plan treatment. We offer a variety of the latest tools for diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer:

  • Endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) and "Super D" technology
  • Electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy
  • Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery

Customized treatment plans

Because each person and every cancer is different, your doctor uses your tests and exams to come up with an individual treatment plan. How long this takes depends on how complex your case is and your treatment goals. During this time, you build a relationship with your cancer doctors. You become a team for your care.

Open, honest communication can only benefit your relationship with your doctors. These tips can also help you get the most from this partnership:

Prepare in advance: Write down your questions ahead of your visits. A few examples of smart questions:
           - Why are we doing these tests?
           - Why do you think this treatment is right?
           - What side effects might this treatment cause?

Find trustworthy resources: If you’re looking to learn more, rely on this website or sources your team recommends, so you can make decisions based on good information.

Take a partner: Bringing a friend or family member to appointments can make you feel more confident and help you remember important details.

Treatment options

There are several ways to treat lung cancer depending on the type and location of the tumor. Options may include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. People often receive a combination of treatments. 

Some patients are good candidates for stereotactic ablative radiation therapy (SABR). This highly accurate type of treatment accounts for body and breathing motion, so it can be used to treat lung cancer.

Talk to your doctor to see if a clinical trial (research study) may be right for you.

More support

You are not alone. Legacy offers support throughout your cancer journey, as well as care for your emotional, social and spiritual needs.

Nurse navigators
Legacy Cancer Healing Center 
Support groups and classes
Cancer rehabilitation 
Survivorship services