Non-small cell lung carcinoma is a type of lung cancer, also commonly referred to as non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

NSCLC can cause breathing difficulties and ultimately cause health complications. If diagnosed late or left untreated, it can be life threatening.

Non-small cell lung carcinoma occurs when healthy cells form atypically and grow rapidly. One danger of this cancer is that there’s a high likelihood that the cancer cells will spread from your lungs to other body parts.

There’s no single cause of NSCLC, although smoking puts you at a significantly higher risk. Even nonsmokers can experience this form of cancer.

Other risk factors for non-small cell lung cancer include exposure to air pollution and chemicals, as well as a family history of the condition.

According to the American Cancer Society, up to 90 percent of all lung carcinomas fall into the non-small cell category.

NSCLC doesn’t spread as fast as small cell lung carcinomas (SCLC). For this reason, the outlook and survival rate is better for NSCLC.

Survival rates for cancers like non-small cell lung cancer are based on the five-year survival rate.

The survival rate is calculated from the percentage of people who survive 5 years or longer after diagnosis. Your doctor will look at statistics from people at similar stages of lung cancer to determine this type of outlook.

Numerous factors can determine your five-year survival rate. One major factor is the stage of cancer at which you’re diagnosed.

The American Cancer Society explains the estimated survival rates based on each stage of NSCLC cancer. They are:

  • localized: 63 percent
  • regional: 35 percent
  • distant: 7 percent
  • all stages combined: 25 percent

Keep in mind that these rates are designed as a guide and aren’t necessarily a definitive five-year cutoff. Because treatments have improved over time, the five-year survival rates are not truly reflective of current survival rates.

In its early stages, non-small cell lung cancer usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. Contact your doctor promptly if you experience symptoms of lung cancer, including:

  • recurrent cough
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • unintentional weight loss

There are three main subtypes of non-small cell lung cancer:

  • adenocarcinoma: starts in the outer part of your lungs
  • squamous cell carcinoma: starts in the middle portion of your lungs
  • undifferentiated carcinoma: starts in any portion of your lungs and involves fast-growing cells

Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of lung cancer seen in nonsmokers. This subtype is more common in women than in men, and more common in younger individuals.

While there’s no current cure for this type of lung cancer, there are several treatment options, including:

  • surgery
  • chemotherapy
  • radiation
  • targeted drugs
  • immunotherapy

The purpose of treatment is to improve your quality of life and prevent the cancer from spreading, also called metastasis.

Your chances for survival are best when this type of cancer is caught early. Trust your instincts and contact your doctor if you don’t feel well. An appointment might just save your life.

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