Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Types of Lung Cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer:

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
This is the most common type of lung cancer. Roughly 85 percent of people diagnosed with lung cancer each year have NSCLC.

NSCLC can be a squamous cell carcinoma, which is often centrally located because it starts in the lining of your airways.

NSCLC can also be a nonsquamous cell carcinoma; the majority of lung cancers are nonsquamous cell carcinomas.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC).
About 10-15 percent of lung cancers are small cell lung cancers. SCLC occurs almost exclusively in heavy smokers.

SCLC is more aggressive than non-small lung cancers, and can spread quickly.

SCLC creates large tumors and is often not discovered until it has spread to sites outside the lungs. 

Detecting Lung Cancer

Here at EvergreenHealth, we have the expertise and the technology to determine if your symptoms are indeed lung cancer, and if they are, to give you the best possible course of treament for the best possible outcome.


A simple chest X-ray may be the first indication that you have lung cancer. It may be an X-ray your doctor orders to check for bronchitis or pneumonia depending on your symptoms, but by the time a mass or nodule shows up on an X-ray, your lung cancer is already likely past the early curable stage.

CT, MRI or Biopsy

Your doctor may then order a chest CT scan, or an MRI, and from there, a biopsy to confirm the presence of cancer. This involves taking a sample of tissue and looking at the cells under a microscope.

For people at high risk of lung cancer (typically heavy smokers between the ages of 55 and 80), there are now screening guidelines to increase the life-saving advantages of early detection. The simple and quick scan, called a low-dose computed tomography (CT), is the only recommended screening test for the disease.

Staging Your Cancer

Once your lung cancer has been diagnosed, your doctor will work to determine the extent (stage) of your cancer. Your cancer's stage helps you and your doctor decide what treatment is most appropriate.

Staging tests may include imaging procedures that allow your doctor to look for evidence that cancer has spread beyond your lungs.

These tests include CT, MRI, positron emission tomography (PET) and bone scans.

Not every test is appropriate for every person, but the medical specialists at EvergreenHealth's Halvorson Cancer Center have the expertise to determine which are right for you.