Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) represents approximately 85% to 90% of lung cancer diagnoses. There are three main types of NSCLC — adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and large cell carcinoma — all of which develop differently but are grouped together because the approaches to treatment and prognosis are often similar.

Types of NCSLC

There are three types of NCSLC, all of which are outlined below.


Adenocarcinoma is the most common subtype of NSCLC and accounts for 35% to 40% of all NSCLC. These types of tumors often develop at the edges of the lungs and in cells lining the airways. They grow at various rates and can be asymptomatic in the early stages. Adenocarcinoma is often linked to smoking but is also the most common lung cancer diagnosed in nonsmokers. Adenocarcinoma is more prevalent in women than in men.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Squamous cell carcinoma accounts for about 30% of all NSCLC and is often linked to smoking. It is generally detected in the middle of the lungs and also grows at various rates.

Large Cell Carcinoma

Large cell carcinoma accounts for 10% to 20% of all NSCLC. It can occur in any part of the lungs and spreads rapidly. Like adenocarcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, these tumors are often associated with smoking.

Symptoms of NSCLC

Lung cancer symptoms may be similar to those caused by many different conditions. If you have any of the symptoms listed below, discuss them with your doctor right away:

  • Chest discomfort or pain
  • Persistent coughing that worsens
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored phlegm
  • Hoarseness and wheezing
  • Weight loss and lack of appetite
  • Recurrent infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia

Treatment of NSCLC

There are many treatment options for NSCLC, depending on the stage at which the cancer is diagnosed and the biological nature of the individual case. They include:

  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy, including targeted therapy and biologic therapy
  • Localized therapy, such as ablation