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Lung Cancer Health Center

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Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Patient Information [NCI] - General Information About Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer


Other less common types of non-small cell lung cancer are: pleomorphic, carcinoid tumor, salivary gland carcinoma, and unclassified carcinoma.

Smoking increases the risk of non-small cell lung cancer.

Smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars is the most common cause of lung cancer. The earlier in life a person starts smoking, the more often a person smokes, and the more years a person smokes, the greater the risk of lung cancer. If a person has stopped smoking, the risk becomes lower as the years pass.

Anything that increases your chance of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. Talk with your doctor if you think you may be at risk.

Risk factors for lung cancer include the following:

  • Smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, now or in the past.
  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke.
  • Having a family history of lung cancer.
  • Being treated with radiation therapy to the breast or chest.
  • Being exposed to asbestos, chromium, nickel, arsenic, soot, or tar in the workplace.
  • Being exposed to radon in the home or workplace.
  • Living where there is air pollution.
  • Being infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Using beta carotene supplements and being a heavy smoker.

When smoking is combined with other risk factors, the risk of lung cancer is increased.

Signs of non-small cell lung cancer include a cough that doesn't go away and shortness of breath.

Sometimes lung cancer does not cause any signs or symptoms. It may be found during a chest x-ray done for another condition. Signs and symptoms may be caused by lung cancer or by other conditions. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Chest discomfort or pain.
  • A cough that doesn't go away or gets worse over time.
  • Trouble breathing.
  • Wheezing.
  • Blood in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs).
  • Hoarseness.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.
  • Feeling very tired.
  • Trouble swallowing.
  • Swelling in the face and/or veins in the neck.
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