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Non small cell lung cancer

Non small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer with approximately 88% of all cases having this type. Non small cell lung cancer has three main types:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma
  • Adenocarcinoma of the lung
  • Large cell carcinoma

Each of the types of non small cell lung cancer has different characteristics which mean detection, treatment and prognosis can vary.

Squamous cell carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma is a non small cell lung cancer that is usually a slow growing form of the disease and more commonly found in men. It can also be referred to as epidermoid carcinoma and, because it is usually caused by smoking, there has been a gradual decline in the incidence of this form of lung cancer. The disease develops in the large airways near the centre of the lungs which results in symptoms such as collapsed lung, coughing up blood and pneumonia presenting much earlier on in the development of the disease making it easier to detect.

Adenocarcinoma of the lung

The incidence of this type of non small cell carcinoma is on the rise and is more commonly found in women, people of an Asian background, non smokers and people under 45. It can be difficult to detect as it presents few symptoms in the early stages due to it affecting the outer periphery of the lungs. For more information see our Adenocarcinoma of the lung page.

Large cell carcinoma

Large cell carcinoma gets its name from the appearance of the large round cells seen when this type of cancer is examined under a microscope. This type of non small cell lung cancer spreads more quickly than other types and is usually found in the outer parts of the lung. The presence of the cancer in the outer parts of the lung can mean that usual symptoms of lung cancer may not present until much later on in the progression of the disease which can mean it is difficult to detect in the early stages.

Non small cell lung cancer symptoms

The symptoms of non small cell lung cancer will depend on the type of non small cell lung cancer the patient has. Squamous Cell Carcinoma Symptoms:

  • Coughing up blood
  • Collapsed lung
  • Persistent pneumonia
  • Elevated calcium levels
  • Shoulder pain
  • Weakness
  • Flushing or sweating on one side of the face

Adenocarcinoma of the lungs symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Pain in the shoulder, back or chest
  • Mild shortness of breath

Large cell carcinoma symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Mild shortness of breath
  • Back, shoulder or chest pain
  • Pain in chest of side that gets worse when taking a deep breath
  • Hormonal symptoms including breast swelling in men

Non small cell lung cancer treatment

All lung cancers respond differently to treatments and the type of treatment may be dependent on the stage of the cancer. Treatment options can include surgery (if the disease is caught in the early stages before it has spread), chemotherapy, radiotherapy or a combination of Chemo/Radiotherapy. The effectiveness will depend on the progression of the disease and how well the patient responds to the treatment.

Non small cell lung cancer prognosis

The prognosis for patients diagnosed with non small cell lung cancer depends on the stage of the disease at diagnosis. Patients who are diagnosed in the earliest stages can have a 5 year survival rate between 53-78% however; those diagnosed at the latest stage may be looking at a 5 year survival rate of 2-13%.

Lung cancer screening

If you are worried about non small cell lung cancer or any other type of lung cancer and think you may have symptoms or be at risk, please contact us to arrange a LungCheck. The Lung Check lung cancer screening service is a quick and easy way to detect lung cancer in the early stages and will additionally assess your risk. More information can also be found on our LungCheck lung cancer screening FAQ page.

Get more information about lung cancer

If you want to learn more about lung cancer, please see our lung cancer information page or contact us.

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