Non-Small Cell Cancer (NSCLC)

Non-Small Cell Cancer (NSCLC)

Zain Syed
Zain Syed

Approximately  85% of lung cancer cases are considered NSCLC, which arises from the lung’s epithelial cells, a type of cell that lines the organ surface. Several types of non-small cell lung (NSCL) include adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and large cell carcinoma. Non-small-cell lung cancer is when the cells in your lungs grow out of control


If your doctor suspects you have lung cancer, they might consider doing a diagnostic computed tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan gives the Doctor a detailed 3D scan.

If they find that there might be cancer, they may do a positron emission tomography (PET) scan. A PET scan can detect cancer that a CT scan could not by using radioactive sugar. Cancer cells will use up the sugar much faster than our normal body cells.

If the PET scan confirms what the CT scan shows, then the final step to confirming you have cancer is taking some tissue from the cancerous areas to test. This is called a biopsy.

Once they have all the information, they will determine what stage your cancer is. The stage of cancer will help your doctor decide how to treat you. Staging is done on a numerical scale of 1-4. The higher the number, the more it has grown.


NSCLC is slower growing compared to small cell lung cancer (SCLC).

The general rule of thumb with cancers in your tissue (solid tumor cancers) is if they can remove that tissue they will do that. There are some reasons why they would not be able to remove the tissue. If the tissue is too large they may need to shrink it either by using radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a combination of both. If the cancer has spread past the lungs surgery is not always an option either.

The type of chemotherapy that is used is based on how your cells looked like under the microscope. Some common medications that are used are cisplatin, carboplatin, pemetrexed, etoposide, paclitaxel, gemcitabine, and docetaxel. Cisplatin and or carboplatin are used in combination with the others mentioned.

After your treatment, you may go through what is called consolidation therapy. Which is used to kill any remaining cancer cells that might have been left behind. The agent commonly used for this is called durvalumab.

In summary, surgery is always the first option. If surgery cannot be done they may try to shrink the tumor or just treat you with radiation or chemoradiation. Once that is done you might go through what is called consolidation therapy which is used to kill any remaining cancer cells.

Risk Factors:

Smoking, exposure to secondhand smoke, exposure to asbestos, family history, other lung diseases, and a history of infections such as tuberculosis.


After you have completed your therapy you will be following up with your doctor every 3-6 months for the first 2-3 years. They may repeat your scans and blood work to ensure that the cancer is not returning or growing.

Your doctor might want to see you sooner if they think it is medically necessary.

Things to think about:

  • Always get a second opinion. Healthcare professionals are humans and can see things differently.
  • A biopsy is the gold standard for diagnosing solid tumor cancers. You should not just start therapy without having one.
  • If you are feeling ill, having nausea, or anything out of the ordinary during your treatment let your treatment team know! They might be able to help you. Remember they are trying to help you not make you miserable.
  • The best way to fight cancer is to catch it early. So, see your doctor yearly for a physical and screen early especially if you have risk factors. The slight inconvenience is worth it!

Learn more about Lung Cancer Symptoms and signs in our next article.

Zain Syed
Zain Syed
I am a Pharmacist specializing in oncology and pain management. I have worked in various settings, including Infusion, Clinic, Inpatient, Outpatient, and Investigational Drug Services. The lack of access, financial struggles, and people falling through the cracks leads to worse outcomes and increased costs. I chose healthcare to help people and want to help at scale, my mission and passion, not just one person at a time. Cancer can be a lonely journey, but it does not have to be. I look forward to building a community that educates and supports each other through difficult times.

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