Module 1. Understanding Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC)

Understanding Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
*Please note: This slide show represents a visual interpretation and is not intended to provide, nor substitute as, medical and/or clinical advice.
How do healthy lungs function?
When you inhale, the lungs transfer oxygen from the air to your blood. They also take carbon dioxide from your blood and get rid of it when you exhale.
What is lung cancer?
Lung cancer is a disease caused by the unchecked growth and spread of some cells from the lungs.
What is non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC)?

NSCLC is one of two major types of lung cancer. The other one is small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

The most common subtypes of NSCLC are:
  • Adenocarcinoma (carcinoma means cancer)
  • Squamous cell (epidermoid) carcinoma
  • Large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma
NSCLC is the most common lung cancer
NSCLC is the most common type of lung cancer, and affects about 8 of every 10 people with lung cancer.
What causes NSCLC?
There is no single cause of NSCLC. Like most other adult cancers, NSCLC is caused by a build-up of damage to cells.

Over many years, this damage changes some cells so that they can grow, multiply, and spread unchecked.

Will lung cancer spread?
If a cancer isn’t completely killed or removed, it can spread to other organs.
Will lung cancer spread?
A cancer that has spread to another site is called a metastasis.
What are the risk factors for NSCLC?

There are two types of risk factors for NSCLC. Risk factors that you can change, and risk factors that you can't change.

Risk factors that you can change:
  • Smoking
  • Being exposed to:
    • Secondhand smoke
    • Radon (like in a basement)
    • Asbestos (by working in mines, mills, textile plants, or with old insulation)
    • Uranium and other radioactive materials
    • Chemicals like arsenic, coal products, mustard gas, diesel fumes
    • Arsenic in drinking water
What are the risk factors for NSCLC?
Risk factors that you can’t change are:
  • Air pollution
  • Having had lung cancer
  • Prior radiation therapy to the lungs; and
  • Parents or sibling with lung cancer, especially if young when diagnosed
Symptoms related to non-small cell lung cancer can include:
The symptoms of NSCLC are not specific.
Possible symptoms are:
  • A cough that doesn’t go away or gets worse
  • Coughing up blood
  • Rust-colored spit
  • Hoarse voice
  • Unexpected weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • A lung infection (bronchitis or pneumonia) that won’t go away
  • Wheezing with no known cause (like asthma)
What are signs that NSCLC has spread?
Symptoms that NSCLC has spread to other organs are:
  • Pain in the back or hips — if it’s in those bones
  • Headaches, weak or numb arm or leg, dizziness, balance problems, and seizures — if it’s in the brain or spinal cord
Can lung cancer be prevented?
So far, researchers haven’t found any drugs, vitamins, herbal remedies, or alternative medicines that can help prevent lung cancer.
How can I reduce my risk of lung cancer?
The most important thing you can do to lower the risk of NSCLC, is: Don’t smoke (cigarettes, cigars, pipes)
Other things you can do:
  • Avoid second-hand smoke
  • Avoid radon and other chemicals that can cause cancer
  • Eat a healthy diet
What factors increase survival?
Having a small cancer that hasn’t spread outside the lung increases survival.
What are my treatment options for NSCLC?
The 5 basic ways to treat people with NSCLC are:
  • Surgery
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Targeted therapy; and
  • Immunotherapy
What determines my personal treatment for NSCLC?
Which options are best for you will depend on factors like your:
  • Tumor type, size, location, and spread
  • Tumor molecular make up and other test results
  • Symptoms
  • Age and overall health; and
  • Preferences
How do you decide on treatment for NSCLC?
When you meet with your doctor, be sure to ask lots of questions.
How do you decide on treatment for NSCLC?
For example:
What are the goals of this treatment? What are its possible side effects?
  • Explain your worries and wishes.
  • Get a second opinion; and
  • Ask if there are any clinical trials you could join.
Can my cancer be cured?
Ask your doctor if your cancer can be cured. New treatments have helped people with NSCLC live longer than ever before.

Slide Show - Understanding Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

This slide show explains how healthy lungs function and how non-small cell lung cancer can occur. Non-small cell lung cancer is one of two major types of lung cancer and it is the most common type of lung cancer in the US. This slide show will help you understand what causes this type of cancer and what are its common risk factors. While cigarette smoking is the most significant risk factor, there are other risk factors and this disease can occur in those who have never smoked. If you have been diagnosed with this type of cancer, this slide show will help you know the kinds of questions you should ask when you meet with you doctor, including the goals of treatment and their possible benefits and also possible side effects.

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Animation - Understanding Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
1. Animation - Understanding Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Slide Show - Understanding Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
2. Slide Show - Understanding Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer

Expert Videos

What is non-small cell lung cancer?
3. What is non-small cell lung cancer?
What are the risk factors for NSCLC?
4. What are the risk factors for NSCLC?
What are the symptoms of NSCLC?
5. What are the symptoms of NSCLC?
What are my options for treatment and management of NSCLC?
6. What are my options for treatment and management of NSCLC?

This educational activity has been developed by
A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation and Mechanisms in Medicine Inc.

This activity is supported by an independent educational grant from Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation Inc., and a Celgene Patient Advocacy Sponsorship.

This website is part of the Animated Patient™ series developed by Mechanisms in Medicine Inc., to provide highly visual formats of learning for patients to improve their understanding, make informed decisions, and partner with their health care professionals for optimal outcomes.