Cancer - lung - non-small cell; Non-small cell lung cancer; NSCLC; Adenocarcinoma - lung; Squamous cell carcinoma - lung
There are three common forms of NSCLC:
Smoking causes most cases of lung cancer. The risk depends on the number of cigarettes you smoke every day and for how long you have smoked. Being around the smoke from other people (secondhand smoke) also raises your risk for lung cancer. However, some people who do not smoke and have never smoked develop lung cancer.
Research shows that smoking marijuana may help cancer cells grow, but there is no direct link between the drug and developing lung cancer.
High levels of air pollution and drinking water containing high levels of arsenic can increase your risk for lung cancer. A history of radiation therapy to the lungs can also increase the risk.
Working with or near the following cancer-causing chemicals or materials can also increase your risk:
Early lung cancer may not cause any symptoms. Symptoms you should watch for include:
Other symptoms that may be due to NSCLC:
Note: These symptoms can be due to other, less serious conditions. It is important to talk to your health care provider.
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions about your medical history. You will be asked if you smoke, and if so, for how long you have smoked.
When listening to the chest with a stethoscope, the health care provider can sometimes hear fluid around the lungs, which could (but doesn't always) suggest cancer.
Tests that may be performed to diagnose lung cancer or see if it has spread include:
In some cases, the health care provider may need to remove a piece of tissue from your lungs for examination under a microscope. This is called a biopsy. There are several ways to do this:
If the biopsy shows that you do have lung cancer, more imaging tests will be done to determine the stage of the cancer. Stage means how big the tumor is and how far it has spread. Non-small cell lung cancer is divided into five stages:
There are many different types of treatment for non-small cell lung cancer. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer.
Surgery is the often the treatment for patients with non-small cell lung cancer that has not spread beyond nearby lymph nodes. The surgeon may remove:
Some patients need chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill cancer cells and stop new cells from growing.
Controlling symptoms and preventing complications during and after chemotherapy is an important part of care.
Radiation therapy can be used with chemotherapy if surgery is not possible. Radiation therapy uses powerful x-rays or other forms of radiation to kill cancer cells. Radiation may be used to:
Controlling symptoms during and after radiation to the chest is an important part of care.
The following treatments are mostly used to relieve symptoms caused by NSCLC:
For additional information and resources, see cancer support group.
The outlook varies widely. Most often, NSCLC grows slowly. The cancer may spread to other parts of the body, including the bone, liver, small intestine, and brain.
However, in some cases, it can be very aggressive and cause rapid death. Chemotherapy has been shown to prolong the life and improve the quality of life in some patients with stage IV NSCLC.
Cure rates are related to the stage of disease and whether you are able to have surgery.
If you smoke, stop smoking. It's never too late to quit. Your risk of lung cancer drops dramatically the first year after you quit. Stopping even after you've been diagnosed with early-stage lung cancer may improve your outlook.
Also avoid breathing in the smoke from other people's cigarettes, cigars, or pipes.
Routine lung cancer screening using chest x-ray or lung CT scan is not currently recommended for people who don't have symptoms. Many studies have been done to test the benefit of screening. Most experts have concluded that screening will not cure the disease or help people live longer. Screening may lead to many unneeded biopsies or surgeries.
The long-term use of vitamin C, vitamin E, and folate does not seem to reduce the risk of lung cancer.
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