Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer: Treatment, Stages and Symptoms

Lungs; a pair of spongiform tissues in our chest cavity that provide oxygen to the body and remove carbon dioxide. Uncontrolled growth of these cells forming the lungs results in lung cancer. Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the world and in the world.

Two Types of Lung Cancer

Regarding their microscopic characteristics, we can distinguish two main groups of lung cancer: small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer. Both cancers affect the lungs but have several important differences, such as the way they are treated and the course of the disease. Small-cell lung cancer cells are really small and round when examined under a microscope.

Any Differences between Small and Non-Small Lung Cancer

The small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer indications are largely similar. However, small-cell lung cancer usually causes more fatigue and weight loss because it spreads more rapidly. Lung cancer can also lead to bone pain due to bone metastases in advanced stages.

Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer is one of the most seen cancer types.
Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer is one of the most seen cancer types.

Mutations of Non-small cell lung cancer

Besides that, Non-small cell lung cancer also has some subtypes. Some genetic mutations (EGFR, ALK etc.) have been identified in these non-flat-cell types and a significant increase in survival rate has been achieved with received therapies which are directed at these lung cancer patients. These tests are likely to be positive in non-smoker people.

The incidence of EGFR mutation in non-smokers is about 20%. When the EGFR mutation occurs, it generates a continuous self-imperative signal in the cell without external stimulation. This causes the tumor to grow, multiply, increase vascularity and metastasize. When the doctors detect the mutation in the patient’s anti-EGFR therapies, the response rate is around 60%.

Further Investigation

When resistance develops when doctors direct these treatments, it is necessary to conduct a genetic investigation to understand various resistance mechanisms and to provide therapies for them: EGFR exon 20, T790M mutation, C-MET, RET, MET, KRAS and so on.

The mutation of the ALK gene to another gene is found in about 7% of the mutations. Therapies have been developed for this problem.

The ROS1 gene mutation is positive in 2% of all non-small cell cancers. People take medicines for this treatment. Targeted therapy is also possible if the mutation in the BRAF gene is detected (BRAF inh + MEK inh)

Symptoms of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Lung Cancer symptoms indicating NSCLC are as following; however, you should not forget that you may experience some of these symptoms because of different reasons or diseases.

  1. Coughing endlessly
  2. Losing Weight
  3. headaches and seizures(Neurological Symptoms)
  4. Feeling tired and weak
  5. Pain in bones
  6. Clubbed Toes/Fingers
  7. Paraneoplastic Syndromes

Stages of Non-small Cell Lung Cancer

Stage 1: the tumor is in only one lung and not located in the lymph nodes yet.

 Stage 2: Cancer cells invade the lymph nodes around the lung.

Stage 3: Cancer cells invade the lymph nodes on the same side of the lung where the tumor is located; it can also invade the breathing tube, the chest wall and the periphery of the diaphragm.

Stage 4: These cells start to invade and locate in the rest of the body and spread to other parts of the lungs.

For a detailed explanation, read the article; Lung Cancer Stages

Is Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer commonly seen?

Statistics have shown that lung cancer is among the most common cancer types; it is the second most diagnosed type of cancer for men; and the third one for women. For instance; there are nearly 400 thousand lung cancer cases each year in the whole of Europe; most of the patients are men. A research by Torre et al (2015) has proved that people in underdeveloped countries are less likely to have lung cancer.

Besides, a study by Novello et al. (2016) has shown that the death risk from lung cancer types for men has decreased and more men survive; while the opposite scenario works for the women; the death rate from lung cancer has increased for them. This difference is explained by the changing smoking habits of people. Most of the people are around 70 years old when the diagnosis is made. It shows that older people tend to have this cancer type than younger people.

Causes of Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Compared to other factors, smoking tobacco products is the leading reason for lung cancer. Besides it, there are also some other reasons such as radon, passive smoking, genetic factor and etc. However, we should remind you that if you have one or some of the following risk factors; it doesn’t mean that you will surely have lung cancer; moreover, you shouldn’t think  that you are totally safe if you do not have any of them because causes of lung cancer are not always clear just like the symptoms and signs of it.


Smoking is the primary reason for lung cancer because it includes some chemicals and ingredients, they lead to cancer in the lung. By the way, research has shown that how many years people have been smoking for is a more powerful determinant rather than how many cigarettes people have smoked so far. Thus, you can infer that the risk of suffering from the lung cancer decreases depending on how early you quit it; it is clear that there is a correlation between these two variables; the earlier you quit smoking; the less risk of lung cancer you have.

Passive Smoking

In this situation, the patient is not the one smoking regularly but the one whose friends, family or people around him smoke and the patient breathes that air regularly, it is technically
sake with smoking itself; it doesn’t matter whether it is active or passive although being a passive smoker offers less risk.


When the uranium in rocks, soil or granite disintegrates, it generates a gas which is called “radon”. It may sound something usual in nature, but radon is different from other gas; it is radioactive. This gas may leak the places people live and work and affect them. Radon is believed to be one of the risk factors. There are some cancer cases in which the patients have never smoked in their lives; radon may have played a role in the development of these cases. This risk factor plays a role especially for people working in mines because some areas are more likely to produce radon.

Genetic Tendency

Some cases are thought to be reasoned from the genetic factors; if someone’s genes tend to suffer from cancer or there were cancer cases in the family in the past, it can make the risk of lung cancer relatively higher than usual. Some researches have even proved that genetic factors can play a role in the development of cancer. For these people, other factors are likely to show more effect on them than other people.

Environmental Pollutants

Some chemicals and pollutants such as asbestos, arsenic, atmospheric pollution can reason in lung cancer. It has been seen that people in rural areas are less likely to suffer from cancer than the people living in the cities; researchers believe that it is because of the atmospheric pollution. Besides them, using coal in home can sometimes trigger the cancer development.
Regarding all the risk factors explained before, you can undergo a non-small cell lung cancer test if you believe that you are at risk.

Research on Small Cell Lung Cancer

You can google for recent research on this disease, and learn about the methods and directions. One of those research is as follows;

“Stereotactic body radiotherapy for centrally located early-stage non-small cell lung cancer or lung metastases from the RSSearch® patient registry”- Read it click here.



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