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Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer


Risk Factors for Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer

Smoking is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer. It's linked to more than three-quarters of lung cancer deaths.

Secondhand smoke is also a risk factor for lung cancer. It likely causes more than 3,000 lung cancer deaths each year.

Other risk factors for lung cancer are:

  • radon (radioactive gas found naturally in soil and rocks)
  • asbestos
  • air pollution
  • family history of lung cancer


Treatment of Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer

By the time lung cancer is diagnosed, it is often too late to cure. However, if the cancer cannot be cured, there are several types of treatment that are used to slow or stop the disease. These treatments can also relieve symptoms.

The right treatment depends on several factors, including:

  • patient's health
  • stage of the cancer at the time of treatment

Possible treatment includes:

Here's some detail on these treatments:

Surgery. In early stages, surgery to remove the cancer may be able to cure the disease. Such surgery may include the removal of part of a lung known as a lobe. Or it may require the removal of an entire lung.

Nearby lymph nodes are also removed to see if the cancer has spread.

Surgery may also be used to drain fluid that has built up outside the lungs.

Radiation. This treatment uses high-energy beams or particles to kill cancer cells or keep them from growing. Current techniques allow doctors to better target the cancer and reduce radiation damage to nearby healthy cells.

Radiation therapy can be done two ways:

  • externally (by machine)
  • internally (often via radioactive pellets implanted near the cancer cells)

Radiation is often used when surgery is not an option. It is also used to reduce symptoms.

Chemotherapy. This treatment uses anticancer drugs to shrink tumors or stop their growth and spread. The drugs are either injected or taken by mouth. They are often given in several cycles. Each cycle typically lasts three to four weeks.

Targeted therapies. These drugs target specific cell changes caused by cancer. Clinical trials, which use experimental therapies, are also an option for treatment. Participating in a trial may or may not successfully treat a patient's cancer. These trials will help doctors better understand the disease.

Stages of Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer

A stage describes if and how much the cancer has spread. Staging lung cancer is a complex process. The major stages of NSCLC are:

  • Occult (hidden) stage: Cancer cells are found in lung fluid or in sputum, but the location of cancer in the lungs isn't determined.
  • Stage 0: Cancer cells are found in the lining of the airways.
  • Stage I: A small tumor is found only in one lung. The cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes.
  • Stage II: A more invasive tumor is found in one lung, or the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
  • Stage III: Cancer has spread to the lymph nodes and possibly nearby structures.
  • Stage IV: Cancer has spread throughout the lungs and possibly to other major organs, such as the brain and liver.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Sujana Movva, MD on March 27, 2014
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