Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is one of the few cancers where patients face a severe stigma, and that is because lung cancer is associated with cigarette smoking. Therefore, a person with lung cancer is often thought to have brought it on themselves due to their own actions. The truth is that plenty of non-smokers and never-smokers get lung cancer, too; these individuals comprise about 10 to 15 percent of lung cancer cases.

Your lungs are two sponge-like organs located in your chest. When you breathe in, air enters through your nose or mouth and goes into your lungs through the trachea, sometimes called the windpipe. In your lungs, the trachea divides into tubes called bronchi, which branch into smaller and smaller tubes called bronchioles, which end at tiny air sacs called alveoli. Lung cancers generally start in the cells lining the bronchi and other parts of the lung such as the bronchioles and alveoli.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that 283,340 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in 2023. In the U.S., lung cancer is the second most common cancer in both men and women. New lung cancer cases are decreasing, primarily due to advances in early detection and treatment and a decline in smoking rates.

Our physicians are well versed in the treatment of lung cancer, and our support staff will make your treatment journey as easy as possible. We have offices in Louisville and just across the river in Jeffersonville for your convenience. Learn more about our physicians.

Types of lung cancer

There are two main types of lung cancer: non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC). Both of these have several subtypes, and they’re grouped together under the SCLC and NSCLC categories because their treatment and prognosis are often similar.


  • Non-small cell lung cancer comprises about 80 to 85 percent of lung cancer cases. Its main subtypes are adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. Adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma occur most often in smokers or former smokers—but plenty of non-smokers get these types of tumors, too. Other, much rarer, types of NSCLC are adenosquamous carcinoma and sarcomatoid carcinoma.
  • Small cell lung cancer makes up about 10 to 15 percent of lung cancers. It is sometimes called oat cell cancer. SCLC tends to grow and spread faster, which unfortunately means that in most people diagnosed with SCLC, the cancer has already spread outside the lungs.

Risk factors for lung cancer

Cigarette smoking and usage of other tobacco products is the biggest known risk factor for lung cancer. Other risk factors include exposure to secondhand smoke, Radon (a radioactive gas found in rocks and soil), Asbestos, radioactive or chemical cancer-causing agents, or air pollution. A personal or family history of lung cancer also increases the risk of developing lung cancer.

A few potential risk factors currently under investigation include smoking marijuana, e-cigarettes, and talc and talcum powder.

Tobacco Use &
Secondhand Smoke

Radon Exposure

Asbestos Exposure

Chemical Cancer-Causing Agents

Air Pollution

Personal or Family History

Radiotherapy for lung cancer


The most common type of radiation therapy for lung cancer is external beam radiation. In this treatment, a machine called a linear accelerator sends high-intensity beams of radiation toward the cancer. It’s most effective in treating lung cancer that has not spread throughout the lung. Radiation therapy can also be used to treat lung cancer that has spread to other areas of the body.

Patients with NSCLC can benefit greatly from radiation therapy for lung cancer. For these patients, we use radiation treatment before surgery to try and shrink the tumor or after surgery to kill any small areas of cancer that were not removed. If the patient isn’t healthy enough to have surgery or if the tumor has spread too far to be treated with surgery, radiation therapy can be a good choice.

In patients with small cell lung cancer, radiation therapy is used to treat the tumor and lymph nodes in the chest, sometimes along with chemotherapy in a practice called chemoradiation. For SCLC patients with limited-stage lung cancer who couldn’t tolerate chemoradiation or who have extensive disease, radiation can be given after chemotherapy is complete. Radiation therapy for lung cancer is also used to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading to the brain.

Information on this page is sourced from the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute.

Lung Cancer Resources

Are you being treated for lung cancer? Here are some resources to help you better understand your treatment; how to prepare for treatment; and what to expect before, during, and after treatment occurs.

Cancers We Treat

Our physicians treat a wide variety of cancers. You can view the full list here, or you can click below to learn about the cancers we most commonly treat.


Radiation is often the treatment of choice for prostate cancer. It is used as the first line treatment for cancer that is low-grade and still confined to the prostate. It’s used as part of the first treatment for cancers that have grown outside the prostate gland and into nearby tissues. It is also used in cases of recurrent prostate cancer, and to help prevent or relieve symptoms in advanced cases. We offer intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), image guided radiation therapy (IGRT), stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for recurrence in selected patients, and radiopharmaceutical treatments including radium 223 and Pluvicto (lutetium 177).

Learn more about prostate cancer


Some people with breast cancer will need radiation in addition to other treatments.  Radiation therapy can be used after breast-conserving surgery to help lower the chance the cancer will come back in the same breast or nearby lymph nodes. It can also be used after a mastectomy, especially if the cancer was larger than about 2 inches, if cancer is found in many lymph nodes, or if certain surgical margins have cancer cells. It is also used when breast cancer has spread to other parts of the body such as the bones, spinal cord, or brain.

Learn more about breast cancer


In select cases, stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for lung cancer can provide great benefits to patients with both small cell and non-small cell tumors that have not spread throughout the lung. It’s also useful when lung cancers have metastasized (spread) to other areas of the body like the chest cavity, brain, or other organs. It is used in non-small cell lung cancer before surgery to shrink the tumor, if the patient isn’t healthy enough for surgery, if the tumor has spread too far to be treated with surgery, and after surgery to kill any tumor cells that might still be in the body. For patients with small cell lung cancer, it’s used to treat the tumor and lymph nodes in the chest, for people who can’t tolerate chemoradiation, or it may be given prophylactically (as prevention) to help minimize the risk of the cancer spreading to the brain.

Learn more about lung cancer


According to the American Cancer Society, radiation therapy for bladder cancer is used after surgery that does not remove the whole bladder (such as TURBT). It’s also used as the main treatment for people with early-stage cancers who can’t have surgery or chemotherapy to try to avoid cystectomy (surgery to remove the bladder), as part of treatment for advanced bladder cancer, and to help prevent or treat symptoms caused by advanced bladder cancer.

Learn more about bladder cancer


Cancer can affect a lot of areas of the head and neck including the nose, mouth, tongue, salivary glands, throat, and larynx (voice box). It’s critical that these patients use a radiation oncology provider who is experienced in head and neck cancer medical procedures. Radiation is used in several ways to treat head and neck cancers. First, it may be used alone, for small cancers or people who can’t have surgery. It can be used before or after surgery, along with chemotherapy (chemoradiation), to kill any remaining cancer cells or shrink the size of large tumors, as well as for treating recurrences and ease symptoms.

Learn more about head and neck cancers


There are several types of skin cancer, the most common of which are basal and squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Radiation treatment for skin cancer can be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells, to treat recurring or metastasized melanoma, or to provide palliative care. In the treatment of skin cancers, radiation can be combined with other treatments such as chemotherapy or surgery.

Learn more about skin cancer


Other types of cancer we treat include:

  • Brain Cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Cervical Cancer
  • Ovarian Cancer
  • Colon & Rectal Cancers
  • Pancreatic Cancer
  • Endometrial Cancer
  • Gynecologic Cancers
  • Sarcoma
  • Hypopharyngeal Cancer
  • Kidney Cancer
  • Testicular Cancer
  • Laryngeal Cancer
  • Thyroid Cancer
  • Liver Cancer

Schedule Your Appointment Today

If you are referred for radiation therapy during your cancer care, you get to choose where to receive treatment. We are here to support and encourage you—call us today to schedule your first appointment with one of our radiation oncologists at the cancer center nearest to you.