What is lung cancer?

Lung cancer is one of the leading types of cancer in both men and women. This type of cancer typically starts in the lining of the tubes, branches and air sacs that make up your lungs. Then, cancerous cells can grow and spread in the lungs and beyond.

Whether you’re at risk for lung cancer or looking for treatment options, you have complete care nearby. Our lung cancer centers offer everything from advanced diagnostic technology to complex lung cancer procedures.

If you’re unsure where to start, our patient navigators can help. Connect with your local patient navigator to learn more about your lung cancer treatment options.

Connect with a patient navigator

Why Baylor Scott & White Health for lung cancer care

Lung cancer often requires care from multiple experts. Our lung cancer centers across Texas bring together an entire team with one focus: helping you defeat lung cancer. With our team by your side, you’ll have access to innovative services at every stage of care.

If you’re at high risk, we offer screenings to catch signs of cancer sooner. If you’ve been recently diagnosed, you’ll have access to innovative treatment options. And, if you’re a lung cancer survivor, we have follow-up programs that support you in the next stage of your cancer journey.

  • Care from multiple specialists in one place
  • Lung cancer care centers across North and Central Texas
  • Low-dose CT (LDCT) screening program
  • Advanced, minimally invasive surgical options
  • Access to clinical trials
  • Patient navigators to advocate for you
  • Support services and survivorship program
Commission on Cancer

Baylor Scott & White Health is the third-largest network of cancer centers accredited by the Commission on Cancer.

Types of lung cancer


Our cancer doctors care for all types of lung cancer. We’ll arm you with information about your type and stage so you can make choices about your care with confidence.

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)

Most lung cancers are a type of non-small cell lung cancer. NSCLC tends to grow slower and may not cause symptoms at first. Some types of NSCLC we treat include:

Adenocarcinoma accounts for 60% of all lung cancer cases. This type of cancer occurs mainly in those who formerly or currently smoke – though it is also the most common type of lung cancer in those who do not smoke.

Squamous cell carcinoma
Squamous cell carcinoma starts in the cells that line the inside of the airways within the lungs, also known as squamous cells. This type of cancer is typically found in the central part of the lungs.

Large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma
Large cell carcinoma, also known as undifferentiated carcinoma, can appear anywhere within the lung. It generally spreads and grows rapidly.

Adenosquamous carcinoma
Adenosquamous carcinoma is a rare type of lung cancer that shows components of adenocarcinomas and squamous cell carcinoma.

Sarcomatoid carcinoma
Sarcomatoid carcinoma is a rare type of lung cancer. These malignancies are a group of poorly differentiated carcinomas with two cells: sarcomatous morphology with giant and/or spindle cells as well as sarcomatoids. Sarcomatoid carcinomas currently remain a relatively unexplored entity.

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

Small cell lung cancer is sometimes also called oat cell cancer. SCLC isn’t as common as NSCLC, and it’s often linked to a history of tobacco use. Often, small cell lung cancer grows faster than other types of lung cancer.

Metastatic lung cancer

Lung cancer can advance outside the lungs and nearby tissue to areas like your liver, bones or brain. Sometimes, this happens before you ever have symptoms. The term metastatic means that your lung cancer has spread to other places in your body.

What causes lung cancer

While smoking is the most well-known risk factor for lung cancer, other factors increase your risk too. If you are at risk, you can take steps to detect lung cancer early—which often gives you more treatment options.

Risk factors you can change

  • Smoking
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Breathing harmful chemicals such as asbestos or radon

Risk factors you cannot change

  • Acquired gene changes
  • Family history of lung cancer
  • Air pollution
  • Previous radiation therapy to lungs

Can lung cancer be found early?

The earlier you find lung cancer, the more options you have to beat it. Low-dose CT (LDCT) screening can detect lung cancer before you have symptoms. If you smoke or have in the past, you may qualify for LDCT screening.

The American Cancer Society recommends yearly lung cancer screenings for those who meet the following guidelines:

  • Be 50-80 years old
  • Have a smoking history of 20 pack years (number of packs per day x number of years smoked. i.e.: 1 pack/day for 20 years = 20 pack years)
  • Be a current smoker or stopped smoking within the last 15 years
  • Have no symptoms

Learn about lung screening

Signs and symptoms of lung cancer

In the early stages of lung cancer, you may have no symptoms at all. But it’s important to know the most common signs of lung cancer, especially if you’re at risk. By staying in tune with your lung health, you can get the care you need sooner.

Find out more about warnings signs and symptoms of each type of lung cancer. Then, if you notice a symptom or want to know more about your risk, visit your doctor to get checked.

Learn the signs of lung cancer

How is lung cancer diagnosed?


When you have lung cancer symptoms, we’re ready with follow-up care. Several imaging tests and diagnostic procedures are available to care for you. We'll assess any signs of cancer and provide you with your next steps.

Bronchoscopy/Endobronchial ultrasound

Bronchoscopy provides a look inside your lungs. A doctor inserts a thin tube into your mouth or nose down into your airways. The procedure is used to both diagnose and treat symptoms of lung cancer.

An endobronchial ultrasound uses ultrasound technology to help your doctor view the inside of your lungs and airways. It also is used to diagnose lung cancer.

Chest X-ray

A chest X-ray is a noninvasive imaging test that gives your doctor a picture of the inside of your chest. If your doctor sees a chest mass or possible tumor in your lungs, you may have more tests.

CT scan

A quick computed tomography (CT) scan with a low amount of radiation can provide a picture of your lungs. The actual scan only takes about five minutes. CT scans can find lung cancer before symptoms ever appear.


An MRI of the lungs uses magnets and radio waves to create detailed images. MRIs are most often used to provide more details about lung cancer after it has been diagnosed.

Needle biopsy

If you have a lung nodule, your doctor may take a sample of the tissue for testing. This is called a biopsy. A needle is guided into the nodule using imaging to take a sample, which is then sent to the lab.


During a PET scan, you’ll have a small amount of radioactive material injected into your blood. This material shows where cancer cells are in the body. It can help diagnose and stage your lung cancer.


During this procedure, a doctor inserts a needle into the space between your chest wall and lungs. Then, fluid is removed. Thoracentesis can both provide a fluid sample for testing and relieve symptoms of fluid buildup.

Stages of lung cancer

Your care team will use tests to measure the size of a tumor and how far it has spread. This is called staging. The stage of your lung cancer helps guide your treatment. Staging criteria varies between non-small cell lung cancer and small-cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer treatment

You have hope for treating lung cancer. We offer advanced surgical procedures, targeted therapies and ongoing research to care for you. With multiple cancer specialists on your team, we’ll design a plan of care to fight your specific lung cancer.

Lung cancer treatment options include:

A simple lung cancer screening saved my life

When Barney got a postcard about lung cancer screening for former smokers, he decided he should get checked. It’s a good thing he did. His CT scan revealed cancer. Days later, he had surgery to remove part of his lung. But because he caught his cancer early, he didn’t need chemo.

Read his lung cancer story

Cancer research

Baylor Scott & White Research Institute (BSWRI) conducts innovative studies exploring potentially new medications and therapies for nearly a dozen different cancer types. Trials are currently underway at select Baylor Scott & White locations.

Find a clinical trial

Cancer research FAQs

Lung cancer screening program

If you’re a current or previous smoker, you may qualify for screening with a low-dose CT scan. This quick, lifesaving test can catch lung cancer when it’s most treatable.

Find out if you're a candidate

Lung cancer support

Lung cancer affects your life in many ways. From emotional support to coping with physical effects, we’re here even when your fight feels hard.

You and your family will have support and education services tailored to every stage of your cancer journey. We’ll encourage you through diagnosis, treatment and beyond. Even when you finish treatment, our survivorship program is here to care for you as you navigate life after cancer.

Quitting smoking

The use of cigarettes, pipes or cigars is the #1 preventable risk factor for lung cancer. Quitting smoking is one of the best choices you can make for your lungs—and your health overall.

Even if you’ve smoked for years, quitting now can still improve your health. After you quit, you get several immediate and long-term benefits.

When you want to quit for good, having the right support is essential. Our care team can provide you with resources for your smoking cessation journey. The National Cancer Institute also offers free support by phone at  1.877.448.7848 and online.

Visit yesquit.org

Scheduling a consultation

With clinics, imaging centers and cancer centers across North and Central Texas, we can connect you to the lung cancer care you need. We’ll help you find a doctor for an evaluation, schedule your lung screening and more.

Not sure where to start? We can help with that too. Our patient navigators will advocate for you and coordinate care for your lung cancer journey.

Finding lung cancer care

You have access to multiple care centers, including centers specializing in lung cancer care. Get started by finding a lung cancer care location near you.