What is Bronchogenic Carcinoma?

Bronchogenic Carcinoma, what is Bronchogenic CarcinomaThe term “bronchogenic carcinoma” seems to have evolved over the years. Historically, it was used to define certain types of lung cancer that originated in the bronchi (largest air passages in the lungs) and bronchioles (smallest air passages in the lungs). At present, the term is used interchangeably to describe any type, or subtype, of lung cancer.

Why Has the Term Changed?

According to Doctor Lynne Eldridge, international speaker on cancer and the award-winning author of Avoiding Cancer One Day at a Time, the most common types and locations of lung cancer have changed over the years.[1] In the past, squamous cell lung cancer (a type of non-small cell lung cancer [see below]) and small cell lung cancer (lung cancer originating in the large, central bronchi) were the most common types of lung cancer. Currently, adenocarcinoma (lung cancer that forms in the mucus-secreting cells of the body) is the most common type of lung cancer.

Scientists believe this change may be attributed to the addition of filters on cigarettes. Whereas squamous cell lung cancer and small cell lung cancer originates in the large air passages of the lungs, adenocarcinoma originates in the distant air passages, or the periphery (outer limits) of the lungs. Filters may allow the toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke to be drawn further down, deep into the lungs where the smaller, distant air passages are.

It should be emphasized that certainly, lung cancer can be found in never-smokers as well, with adenocarcinoma being the most common type of lung cancer found in never-smokers.

Types of Bronchogenic Carcinomas

Bronchogenic carcinoma presents itself as 2 main types:

  • Small Cell Lung Cancer – gets its name from its appearance – small cells – under a microscope. Approximately 15% of people with lung cancer have small cell lung cancer.
  • Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) – the most common type of lung cancer. Accounts for approximately 80-85% of all lung cancers and is further divided into 4 different subtypes: lung adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma of the lungs and large cell lung cancer.


Are you clearing your throat more often than usual? Do you blow off getting winded after climbing a flight of stairs thinking you’re just out of shape or overweight? Because the early symptoms of lung cancer are often subtle or vague – so much so that you may not even notice them – it’s important that you pay attention to your body and see your doctor if you detect any shift from the norm.

As time goes on, symptoms of bronchogenic carcinoma may include:


Although smoking is the most common cause of lung cancer, there are other important causes as well including radon exposure, asbestos exposure, air pollution, secondhand smoke and exposure to occupational carcinogens (cancer-causing agents).


Lung cancer treatment varies, depending upon the type, location and stage you’re diagnosed with but it may include:

  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapies
  • Lung cancer surgery


Regrettably, the prognosis (how long you’ll live after diagnosis) of bronchogenic carcinoma is poor, with the 5-year survival rate being a little more than 17 percent. One thing is certain however, prognosis is more favorable when lung cancer is found early. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to your body and see your doctor as soon as possible when you notice something isn’t right. Because it’s better to be safe than sorry, even a mild shift from your usual health status that you think won’t amount to anything should be investigated.

For more information about bronchogenic carcinoma and what current treatment options are available, talk to your primary care provider or pulmonologist.


[1]Eldridge, Lynne MD. Bronchogenic Carcinoma: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prognosis. Verywell.com. Updated November 7, 2017.


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