Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
At a Glance
- Lung cancer is the cancer that forms in tissues of the lung, usually in the cells lining air passages.
- The two main types are small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. These types are diagnosed based on how the cells look under a microscope.
- It is estimated that 221,200 individuals will be diagnosed with and 158,040 individuals will die of cancer of the lung cancer in 2015.
- Risk factors for lung cancer include smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, now or in the past; exposure to second-hand smoke; treatment with radiation therapy to the breast or chest; exposure to asbestos, radon, chromium, nickel, arsenic, soot, or tar; living where there is air pollution.
Anatomy of Lungs
The lungs are a pair of cone-shaped breathing organs in the chest. The lungs bring oxygen into the body as you breathe in. They release carbon dioxide, a waste product of the body’s cells, as you breathe out. Each lung has sections called lobes. The left lung has two lobes. The right lung is slightly larger and has three lobes. Two tubes called bronchi lead from the trachea (windpipe) to the right and left lungs. The bronchi are sometimes also involved in lung cancer. Tiny air sacs called alveoli and small tubes called bronchioles make up the inside of the lungs.
A thin membrane called the pleura covers the outside of each lung and lines the inside wall of the chest cavity. This creates a sac called the pleural cavity. The pleural cavity normally contains a small amount of fluid that helps the lungs move smoothly in the chest when you breathe.
Types of Non Small Cell Lung Cancer
There are several types of non-small cell lung cancer. Each type of non-small cell lung cancer has different kinds of cancer cells. The cancer cells of each type grow and spread in different ways.
The types of non-small cell lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look under a microscope:
- Squamous cell carcinoma: Cancer that begins in squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales. This is also called epidermoid carcinoma.
- Large cell carcinoma: Cancer that may begin in several types of large cells.
- Adenocarcinoma: Cancer that begins in the cells that line the alveoli and make substances such as mucus.
Other less common types of non-small cell lung cancer are: pleomorphic, carcinoid tumor, salivary gland carcinoma, and unclassified carcinoma.
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Anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor. Risk factors for lung cancer include the following:
- Smoking cigarettes, pipes, or cigars, now or in the past.
- Being exposed to second-hand smoke.
- Being treated with radiation therapy to the breast or chest.
- Being exposed to asbestos, radon, chromium, nickel, arsenic, soot, or tar.
- Living where there is air pollution.
When smoking is combined with other risk factors, the risk of developing lung cancer is increased.
Possible signs of non-small cell lung cancer include:
- A cough that doesn’t go away.
- Trouble breathing.
- Chest discomfort.
- Streaks of blood in sputum (mucus coughed up from the lungs).
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss for no known reason.
- Feeling very tired.