Information for Patients

What is lung cancer?
Lung Cancer Care Pathway
Molecular Testing
Additional Resources

What is lung cancer?


What is Lung Cancer?

Lung cancer is the most common type of cancer, with 1.8 million new cases in 2012 worldwide.1 There are two main types of lung cancer – small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) – which are treated very differently.2

  • SCLC accounts for 10–15% of lung cancers, and is named for the small size of the cells seen under the microscope. It is usually caused by smoking, and tends to spread quite early on.2
  • NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer, making up the remaining 80–85% of cases.2 There are three main types of NSCLC – adenocarcinoma (40%), squamous cell carcinoma (25–30%) and large cell carcinoma (10–15%).2 They look different under the microscope, but are grouped together because doctors treat them in a similar way.2
    • Adenocarcinoma develops from the mucus-producing cells in the lining of the airways, usually in the peripheral regions of the lung, and is generally slow-growing.2
    • Squamous cell carcinoma arises in the cells covering the surface of the airways. These tumours are often found in the central areas of the lung.2
    • Large cell carcinoma can develop in any area of the lung. It tends to grow and spread quickly.2

    What Causes Lung Cancer?

    The most important risk factors for lung cancer are smoking and older age.3 However, lung cancer can affect anyone. The adenocarcinoma form of NSCLC is the most frequent type of lung cancer found in people who don’t smoke, and is also more likely to affect women and younger people than other types of lung cancer.2


    1. Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, et al. GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.0, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2013. Accessed 2 February 2016
    2. American Cancer Society, 2016. About Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Last Revised: May 16, 2016.
    3. National Cancer Institute, 2017. Lung Cancer Prevention – for health professionals (PDQ). Updated: September 1, 2017.

    Lung Cancer Care Pathway

    Lung Cancer Care Pathway

    The Lung cancer care pathway will provide you with information and guidance on what to expect as you learn more about a potential lung cancer diagnosis. You will learn about the symptoms of lung cancer, methods used to confirm or exclude a diagnosis, the role of molecular testing and treatment options available for your disease. Your doctor, multidisciplinary healthcare team and patient organisation will be with you on your care pathway with more detailed information, full guidance and support.

    View the Lung Cancer Care Pathway Infographic for information and guidance on what to expect if your doctor suspects you may have lung cancer.




    Molecular Testing

    Molecular Testing

    Lung cancer is now recognised as a multitude of diseases, which can be caused by a variety of different genetic changes. At least 10 genetic changes have been identified that play a role in NSCLC. Currently, there are approved drugs available to specifically target three of these, ALK, ROS1 and EGFR. EGFR mutations are found in around 12–17% of NSCLC cases,1–3ALK rearrangements in 3–5%,4–7 and ROS1 rearrangements in 1–2%.8 It is crucial to identify patients whose tumours have certain genetic changes, as they could benefit from targeted therapies.

    ‘Molecular testing’ usually involves examining samples of your tumour tissue (known as biopsy specimens) for changes in certain genes (biomarkers) that may be driving the growth of your cancer. It is recommended that all patients with advanced NSCLC should be tested for all relevant biomarkers. This information may guide your treatment decisions by your doctor.

    Various educational materials have been developed by lung cancer physicians and patient advocates to educate patients on testing and explain the importance of biomarker testing in lung cancer.

    Download the Molecular Testing Brochure for more information on molecular testing in NSCLC. This brochure focuses on the importance of molecular testing, answering key questions and describing the steps from the initial biopsy to treatment planning.



    Download the Molecular Testing Leporello for a brief overview of molecular testing in NSCLC. Like the Molecular Testing Brochure, this quick reference guide answers key questions about molecular testing and takes you through the steps from biopsy to treatment.



    View the Molecular Testing Infographic for a brief overview of molecular testing in NSCLC. Like the Molecular testing brochure, this visual road map answers your questions on molecular testing and describes the steps from biopsy to treatment.





    1. Lee YJ, et al. Lung cancer in never smokers: Change of a mindset in the molecular era. Lung Cancer 2011;72:9-15.
    2. Leighl NB. Treatment paradigms for patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer: first-, second-, and third-line. Curr Oncol 2012;19:52-58.
    3. Genetic Home References. Genes: EGFR gene. 2016. Available at: Accessed: 29 November 2016.
    4. National Cancer Institute. Dictionary of Cancer Terms. Available at: Accessed: 28 August 2016.
    5. Garber K. ALK, lung cancer, and personalized therapy: portent of the future? J Natl Cancer Inst. 2010;102:672-675.
    6. Chiarle R, et al. The anaplastic lymphoma kinase in the pathogenesis of cancer. Nat Rev Cancer 2008;8:11-23.
    7. Genetic Home References. Genes: ALK gene. 2016. Available at: Accessed: 29 November 2016.
    8. Gainor JF, Shaw AT. Novel targets in non-small cell lung cancer: ROS1 and RET fusions. Oncologist 2013;18:865-75.

    Additional Resources

    Additional Resources