Main types of thoracic cancer

(Source NCI and Source ACR)

When the figures speak for themselves …

Every year throughout the world, over 1.6 million people are diagnosed with thoracic cancer, most commonly called ‘lung cancer’. In Europe alone, an estimated  409.900 persons of both genders are newly diagnosed with thoracic cancer annually, and 353.500 will die of the disease in the same year. (Source EJC 2013)

Thoracic cancer includes lung: Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) and Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC); malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) and thymic malignancies (TM).

Thoracic cancer, is therefore one of the most common cancers in the world but because the early symptoms are often not recognized; two thirds of the people are diagnosed late after the cancer has spread, as usually there are no associated symptoms or, because the early signs are so subtle that these are not identified. Over the past ten years our understanding of thoracic tumors has improved which means that outcomes for patients are improving.

The lungs are a pair of cone-shaped breathing organs in the chest. The lungs bring oxygen into the body as you breathe in. They release carbon dioxide, a waste product of the body’s cells, as you breathe out. Each lung has sections called lobes. The left lung has two lobes. The right lung is slightly larger and has three lobes. Two tubes called bronchi lead from the trachea (windpipe) to the right and left lungs. The bronchi are sometimes also involved in lung cancer. Tiny air sacs called alveoli and small tubes called bronchioles make up the inside of the lungs.

A thin membrane called the pleura covers the outside of each lung and lines the inside wall of the chest cavity. This creates a sac called the pleural cavity. The pleural cavity normally contains a small amount of fluid that helps the lungs move smoothly in the chest when you breathe.


Anatomy of the respiratory system, showing the trachea and both lungs and their lobes and airways. Lymph nodes and the diaphragm are also shown. Oxygen is inhaled into the lungs and passes through the thin membranes of the alveoli and into the blood stream. (See inset)

Thoracic cancers usually form in the tissues of the lung in the cells lining air passage.(Source ACR)

There are several types of thoracic cancer,  lung: Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) and Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC); malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) and thymic malignancies (TM).