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Lung Cancer Health Center

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Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer

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What Is Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)?

Most people who have lung cancer have NSCLC. Although it's serious, treatment can sometimes cure it or stop it from getting worse. And there are things you can do to help you feel better, too.

People who smoke or who breathe in a lot of smoke are most likely to get NSCLC. Many of them are over 65.

NSCLC has three kinds of tumors:

Adenocarcinoma starts in cells in your air sacs that make mucus and other substances, often in the outer parts of your lungs. It's the most common kind of lung cancer among both smokers and nonsmokers and people under 45. It often grows more slowly than other lung cancers.

Squamous cell (epidermoid) carcinomastarts in cells that line the inner airways of the lungs. About a quarter of lung cancers are this kind.

Large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma grows and spreads more quickly. That can make it tougher to treat. It's about 10% to 15% of lung cancers.

The treatments your doctor suggests will depend on how far your cancer has spread.


Doctors aren't sure exactly what causes this disease. But many people who get it have smoked or been around smoke. Other things that make lung cancer more likely are:

  • Radon, a radioactive gas found naturally in soil and rocks
  • Asbestos
  • Mineral and metal dust
  • Air pollution
  • Radiation treatment to your chest or breast

It can also be passed down in families.


You may not notice symptoms in the early stages. Or you might mistake them for another illness, such as pneumonia or a collapsed lung.

Like other types of lung cancer, symptoms can include:

If the cancer spreads to other parts of the body, you may have:

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