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Lung Cancer

When you are diagnosed with lung cancer, you want a team of experts on your side. That's what you have at UI Health. Our Lung Cancer Program offers extraordinary patient care based on the latest scientific research, including research performed here at UI Health.

Types of Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is cancer that usually starts in the lining of the bronchi — the main airways of the lungs — but also can begin in other areas of the lungs, including the bronchioles or alveoli. It is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women.

Lung cancers are believed to develop over a period of many years. Nearly all lung cancers are carcinomas, a cancer that begins in the lining or covering tissues of an organ. The tumor cells of each type of lung cancer grow and spread differently, and each type requires different treatment.

Lung cancers are generally divided into two types:

Non-small cell lung cancer: This type of lung cancer is much more common than small cell lung cancer, accounting for about 85–90% of lung cancers. The three main kinds of non-small cell lung cancer are named for the type of cells in the tumor:

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

Small cell lung cancer: This type of lung cancer — sometimes called oat cell cancer because the cells may look like oats when viewed under a microscope — grows rapidly and quickly spreads to other organs. There are two stages of small cell lung cancer:

  • Limited: In this stage, cancer is generally found in only one lung. There also may be cancer in nearby lymph nodes on the same side of the chest.
  • Extensive: In this stage, cancer has spread beyond the primary tumor in the lung into other parts of the body.

Risk Factors for Lung Cancer

A majority of preventable lung cancers are caused by smoking, however, there are things that non-smokers who become affected too. Some risk factors include:

  • Smoking or history of heavy smoking — even if you quit years ago
  • Exposure to second-hand smoke or air pollution
  • Exposure to toxic substances, such as arsenic, radon, or asbestos
  • Family history of lung cancer

Lung Cancer Symptoms

Lung cancer symptoms often do not appear until they have spread; however, there are some early symptoms to be aware of:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Stubborn cough and infections that recur
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Recurring bronchitis and pneumonia

Lung Cancer Screening

UI Health provides lung cancer screenings for people who are:

  • 55–80 years old, or 55–77 years old with Medicare
  • A current smoker, or a person who quit smoking less than 15 years ago
  • Former smokers with a history of at least 30 pack-years (one pack-year is equal to smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years)

Lung cancer screening is done by a low-dose computer tomography (CT) scan, which is painless and takes just a few minutes; the cost of the screening is covered by most insurance plans. If you meet the above criteria, we will work with you on insurance precertification, if needed. As with all efforts directed at decreasing rates of lung cancer, we also strongly encourage patients to quit smoking. To learn more about services we provide than can help, visit our Tobacco Treatment Center. 

Visit the Lung Cancer Screening Program to learn more.

Lung Cancer Treatment

Different types of carcinomas, involving different regions of the lung, may cause different symptoms and are treated differently. Our team specializes in diagnosing and treating all types of lung cancer and is committed to finding the best treatment plan for you, including:

  • Surgery: Surgery can be employed to treat lung cancers, including removing the section of the lung (lobe) that contains the cancerous tumors.
  • Chemotherapy/Interventional Oncology: Lung-directed therapies can be used to deliver treatment to cancer cells in the lung and to help prevent the cancer from returning.

Make an Appointment with a Lung Cancer Doctor

To make an appointment with one of our lung cancer doctors, please fill out the online form or call 312.413.4900.