Patient portrayal

What is NSCLC, including
advanced NSCLC?

What is NSCLC?

Lung cancer is the second-most diagnosed cancer in both men and women in the United States. Non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is cancer that starts in the lungs. Unlike normal cells, cancer cells grow without order or control, destroying the healthy lung tissue around them.

How is NSCLC diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform a number of tests in order to make a diagnosis. The first test is usually a painless chest X-ray that can show larger tumors, but may miss smaller or harder-to-find tumors. If something of concern is found on an X-ray or if you need a more detailed test, a CT (computed tomography) scan (kum-PYOO-ted toh-MAH-gruh-fee skan), is typically ordered.

A CT scan uses X-ray beams and a computer to create an image of the inside of your body. CT scans can find smaller tumors that may not be found by chest X-rays and can provide more detailed information about them. CT scans can also help identify enlarged lymph nodes* where a tumor may have spread.


Chest X-ray with Advanced NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancer)

A biopsy is the usual way to confirm an NSCLC diagnosis. Small pieces of tissue or fluids are removed from the body and examined under a microscope by a doctor called a pathologist. The biopsy procedure not only confirms the presence of cancer but typically determines the type of NSCLC as well.

*Lymph nodes are like filters that remove germs. They contain immune cells that can help fight infection.

Types of NSCLC

Non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer. About 85% of lung cancers are NSCLC. It typically grows and spreads more slowly.

Types of NSCLC that are the most commonly diagnosed:
Lung diagram of adenocarcinoma, large cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma

Adenocarcinoma
(A-deh-noh-KAR-sih-NOH-muh) begins in cells of glands that normally secrete substances such as mucus and are often found in an outer area of the lungs.

Large cell carcinoma
(... sel KAR-sih-NOH-muh) can occur in any part of the lungs and tends to grow and spread faster than adenocarcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.

Squamous cell carcinoma
(SKWAY-mus sel KAR-sih-NOH-muh) begins in the flat cells that line the passages of the respiratory tract and are found in the center of the lungs next to an air tube (bronchus).

What is advanced NSCLC?

When NSCLC is diagnosed as stage 3 or stage 4, it is considered advanced.

There are 2 forms: Locally advanced NSCLC and metastatic NSCLC
  • Locally advanced NSCLC, when NSCLC is diagnosed as stage 3, occurs when the cancer may have spread to the lymph nodes* farther away from where it started within the chest. The cancer has not spread to other parts of the body and may be larger than those in stage 2
  • Metastatic NSCLC, when NSCLC is diagnosed as stage 4, occurs when the cancer has spread to other organs such as the other lung, brain, liver, or to other parts of the body

*Lymph nodes are like filters that remove germs. They contain immune cells that can help fight infection.

Learn more about the different stages of NSCLC and why staging is important.

What is staging and why is it important?