©2018 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved. eMedicineHealth does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See Additional Information.

Symptoms and Signs of What Is Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)?

Doctor's Notes on What Is Non-Small-Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)?

Non-Small-Cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is a general term for all lung cancers that are not the small-cell type of lung cancer. NSCLC’s have several types; adenocarcinoma, bronchoalveolar, squamous cell and large cell carcinoma. Signs and symptoms are absent in about 10% of patients with NSCLC and are found incidentally. The NSCLS types can produce one or more of the following symptoms; cough, short of breath, wheezing, hard to take a deep breath, blood in sputum when coughing, repeated pneumonia infections, chest pain and possibly hoarseness and difficulty swallowing. NSCLC can metastasize to other organs like the liver, adrenal glands, bones and brain where other symptoms, related to the specific organ, may develop. In addition, NSCLC’s infrequently may indirectly cause high calcium blood levels, increased hormone production and blood clots.

Causes of symptoms and signs of NSCLC’s are due to pressure that the tumors place on lung tissues, blood vessels and/or nerves or by lung tissue invasion by the cancer cells. However, the cause of the development of the NSCLC types of cancers themselves is tobacco smoking in about 90% of individuals; secondhand smoke is also a risk factor. Other links to NSCLC development can be asbestos exposure, radon gas, and other environmental agents like aromatic polycyclic hydrocarbons, beryllium, nickel, copper, chromium cadmium and diesel exhaust.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.