Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common form of lung cancer.

Through imaging and lab tests, NSCLC can often be detected in its early stages. This means that if you respond to symptoms promptly or get tested if you’re at a high risk, you’ll have a much better chance of a favorable outcome.

The symptoms of NSCLC include the same ones that present in all other types of lung cancer. Read on to learn more about the signs to look out for if you believe you might have NSCLC.

The main symptoms for NSCLC can include any or all of the following:

  • frequent coughing
  • a cough that worsens over time
  • coughing up blood or blood-tinged phlegm
  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing
  • hoarseness
  • unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite
  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • swallowing problems
  • respiratory infections that don’t get better or that keep returning

Symptoms for metastatic NSCLC

In metastatic NSCLC, the cancer has spread beyond the lungs to other organs, glands, or tissue in the body. Symptoms of metastatic NSCLC may include:

  • bone pain, particularly in the hips or back
  • headaches
  • weakness, numbness or tingling in the limbs
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) if the cancer spreads to the liver
  • swelling of the lymph nodes, especially in the neck and around the collarbone

Once your doctor has diagnosed your condition and determined how far the cancer has advanced, they’ll be able to advise you on the best course of action.

Early stages of NSCLC can sometimes be treated by removing cancerous tissue surgically. Later stages of this cancer are usually treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or both.

The timetable for treatment obviously varies, depending on the severity of the disease and whether surgery is involved. Expect to stay in the hospital a week or so after surgery, during which time you may begin pulmonary rehabilitation if recommended.

Other courses of treatment, like chemotherapy, vary in the amount of time they take based on disease progression, the types of chemo used, and more.

Upon being diagnosed with cancer or other serious conditions, the first questions are often about the prognosis. Can it be treated? What’s my life expectancy?

As with any cancer, the earlier treatment begins, the better the odds of a longer, healthier life.

5-year survival rate

A cancer prognosis is often presented in terms of a 5-year relative survival rate, which refers to the percentage of people with cancer who are still living after 5 years.

The American Cancer Society reports that the 5-year relative survival rate for NSCLC is about 63 percent if the cancer is contained “locally” or within the lungs only. The farther it spreads in the body, the lower the percentages drop.

The relative 5-year survival rate for “distant” cancer — meaning the disease has advanced substantially and is in other tissues or organs in the body — is around 7 percent.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, NSCLC makes up 84 percent of all lung cancer cases. NSCLC can be a debilitating condition, especially in its later stages.

The symptoms of NSCLC and the effects of treatment can take a toll on a person’s quality of life. The good news is that responding to symptoms early can often lead to treatment for the disease before it advances.

While living with and treating NSCLC can be challenging to say the least, following your doctor’s advice and turning to others for emotional support and other forms of assistance can help improve your quality of life.