*Please note: This slide show represents a visual interpretation and is not intended to provide, nor substitute as, medical and/or clinical advice.
When you inhale, the lungs transfer oxygen from the air to your blood. They also take carbon dioxide from your blood and get rid of it when you exhale.
Lung cancer is a disease caused by the unchecked growth and spread of some cells from the lungs.
NSCLC is one of two major types of lung cancer. The other one is small cell lung cancer (SCLC).The most common subtypes of NSCLC are:
- Adenocarcinoma (carcinoma means cancer)
- Squamous cell (epidermoid) carcinoma
- Large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma
NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer, and affects about 8 of every 10 people with lung cancer.
There is no single cause of NSCLC. Like most other adult cancers, NSCLC is caused by a build-up of damage to cells.
Over many years, this damage changes some cells so that they can grow, multiply, and spread unchecked.
If a cancer isn’t completely killed or removed, it can spread to other organs.
A cancer that has spread to another site is called a metastasis.
There are two types of risk factors for NSCLC. Risk factors that you can change, and risk factors that you can't change.Risk factors that you can change:
- Being exposed to:
- Secondhand smoke
- Radon (like in a basement)
- Asbestos (by working in mines, mills, textile plants, or with old insulation)
- Uranium and other radioactive materials
- Chemicals like arsenic, coal products, mustard gas, diesel fumes
- Arsenic in drinking water
Risk factors that you can’t change are:
- Air pollution
- Having had lung cancer
- Prior radiation therapy to the lungs; and
- Parents or sibling with lung cancer, especially if young when diagnosed
The symptoms of NSCLC are not specific.
Possible symptoms are:
- A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse
- Coughing up blood
- Rust-colored spit
- Hoarse voice
- Unexpected weight loss and loss of appetite
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or weak
- A lung infection (bronchitis or pneumonia) that won’t go away
- Wheezing with no known cause (like asthma)
Symptoms that NSCLC has spread to other organs are:
- Pain in the back or hips — if it’s in those bones
- Headaches, weak or numb arm or leg, dizziness, balance problems, and seizures — if it’s in the brain or spinal cord
So far, researchers haven’t found any drugs, vitamins, herbal remedies, or alternative medicines that can help prevent lung cancer.
The most important thing you can do to lower the risk of NSCLC, is: Don’t smoke (cigarettes, cigars, pipes)
Other things you can do:
- Avoid second-hand smoke
- Avoid radon and other chemicals that can cause cancer
- Eat a healthy diet
Having a small cancer that hasn’t spread outside the lung increases survival.
The 5 basic ways to treat people with NSCLC are:
- Radiation therapy
- Targeted therapy; and
Which options are best for you will depend on factors like your:
- Tumor type, size, location, and spread
- Tumor molecular make up and other test results
- Age and overall health; and
When you meet with your doctor, be sure to ask lots of questions.
What are the goals of this treatment? What are its possible side effects?
- Explain your worries and wishes.
- Get a second opinion; and
- Ask if there are any clinical trials you could join.
Ask your doctor if your cancer can be cured. New treatments have helped people with NSCLC live longer than ever before.