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Non-small Cell Lung Cancer

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is non-small cell lung cancer?

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer. The following are subtypes of NSCLC:

  • Squamous cell carcinoma is found in cells that line the airways of the lungs. It is usually found in the middle of the lung.
  • Adenocarcinoma is found in cells that produce mucus. It is usually found in the outer parts of the lung.
  • Large cell carcinoma can be found in any part of the lung.
  • Other subtypes such as adenosquamos carcinoma and sarcomatoid carcinoma, are less common.

What increases my risk for NSCLC?

  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • A personal or family history of lung cancer
  • Exposure to radon or asbestos
  • Exposure to uranium, arsenic, or diesel exhaust
  • Living in a place with high air pollution
  • Radiation therapy to the breast or chest

What are the signs and symptoms of NSCLC?

  • A cough or hoarseness that does not go away or gets worse
  • Chest pain that is worse when you take a deep breath, cough, or laugh
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored mucus
  • Shortness of breath or new or worsened wheezing
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Lung infections that do not go away or keep coming back

How is NSCLC diagnosed?

Men and women (55 to 74 years old) with a 30 pack-year smoking history should be tested for lung cancer. A 30 pack-year smoking history means that you have smoked 1 pack per day for 30 years. You may need any of the following:

  • An x-ray, ultrasound, CT, or MRI takes pictures of your lungs. They may show where the cancer is in your lung. You may be given contrast liquid to help the lungs show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • A PET scan may be done to see if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. Radioactive liquid is injected into your IV to help cancer cells show up better in pictures.
  • Blood tests are done to get information about your overall health.
  • A sputum sample may be tested for cancer cells.
  • A biopsy , or sample of lung tissue, can be taken to test for cancer. A biopsy can be done through several procedures such as bronchoscopy, endobronchial ultrasound, or mediastinoscopy.
  • A thoracentesis tests the fluid around the lung for cancer cells. It is removed with a small needle inserted through your chest.

How is NSCLC staged?

The stage of NSCLC describes how far the cancer has spread. Your healthcare provider will decide what treatment you need depending on the stage of your NSCLC. Talk to your healthcare provider about how NSCLC is staged.

  • American Cancer Society
    250 Williams Street
    Atlanta , GA 30303
    Phone: 1- 800 - 227-2345
    Web Address: http://www.cancer.org

How is NSCLC treated?

  • Radiofrequency ablation uses radio waves to heat the tumor and destroy cancer cells.
  • Radiation therapy uses x-rays to kill or shrink cancer cells. The two types of radiation therapy are external beam radiation therapy and brachytherapy.
  • Chemotherapy is medicine to kill cancer cells and stop it from spreading. It may be given before surgery, after surgery, or alone.
  • Targeted therapy medicine stops the growth and spread of cancer cells.
  • Immunotherapy medicine helps the body find and kill cancer cells.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove the cancer, part of the lung , or the entire lung. Surgery may include video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), or an open thoracotomy.

What can I do to manage my symptoms?

  • Quit smoking. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
    • Smokefree.gov
      Phone: 1- 800 - 784-8669
      Web Address: www.smokefree.gov
  • Limit or do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can make breathing problems worse. Ask your healthcare provider if alcohol is safe for you to drink.
  • Use pursed-lip breathing any time you feel short of breath. Take a deep breath in through your nose. Slowly breathe out through your mouth with your lips pursed for twice as long as you inhaled. You can also practice this breathing pattern while you bend, lift, climb stairs, or exercise. It slows down your breathing and helps move more air in and out of your lungs.
    Breathe in Breathe out
  • Use oxygen as directed. Use oxygen when you feel short of breath or when you exercise. You may need to use oxygen all of the time. Ask your healthcare provider about oxygen therapy.
  • Eat small frequent meals. Your shortness of breath may make it hard to eat a lot of food at one time. Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.
  • Drink liquids as directed. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you. Drink extra liquids to prevent dehydration. You will need to drink extra liquids if you are vomiting or have diarrhea from cancer treatments.
  • Balance exercise with rest. Ask about the best exercise plan for you. Exercise may improve your energy levels and appetite. It can also help you heal faster after treatment or surgery. Rest when you feel tired.

How can I help decrease my risk for NSCLC?

  • Do not smoke and stay away from people who smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Test your home for radon and asbestos. You can decrease your exposure to radon and asbestos by having your home tested and treated. Ask your healthcare provider how to get your home tested.
  • Limit your exposure to harmful chemicals in the workplace. Asbestos and other harmful chemicals can be found in mines, mills, textile plants, and shipyards. Follow procedures and policies to protect yourself at work. Use protective equipment such as masks to decrease your risk of inhaling harmful chemicals.
  • Exercise as directed. Maintain a healthy weight. Adults should get moderate exercise for 150 minutes per week.
  • Eat a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, lean meats, and fish. Ask if you need to be on a special diet.

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • You suddenly have more trouble breathing than usual.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You cannot think clearly.
  • Your lips or nails look blue or pale.
  • You have a headache or dizziness.
  • You have more swelling in your face, arms, neck , or chest.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have a fever.
  • You have severe pain.
  • Your symptoms such as wheezing, or cough, get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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