What Is Non-Small Cell Carcinoma?


Quick Answer

Non-small cell carcinoma is a type of lung cancer: it grows more slowly than small-cell lung cancer, and can appear in three distinct varieties. Non-small cell carcinoma, or NSCLC, is the most common type of lung cancer, says the National Institutes of Health. The three varieties of NSCLC are adenocarcinoma, which forms in the outer layers of lungs, squamous cell carcinoma, which forms in or near the bronchial tubes and large cell carcinoma, which grows in all areas of the lungs.

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Full Answer

Of the three main types of non-small cell lung cancer, large cell carcinomas grow more quickly than the other varieties. They can also spread quickly, and even move to other areas.

As with other cancers, NSCLC has some common risk factors, notes the National Institutes of Health. In up to 90 percent of cases, physicians diagnose NSCLC in people who smoke or have a history of smoking. Exposure to other carcinogenic items, such as asbestos, some paints, alloys, metals such as uranium, coal, diesel and mustard gas and products with chlorine or formaldehyde can increase risk of developing NSCLC too.

Additionally, exposure to significant amounts of air pollution or high levels of arsenic can increase risk of developing NSCLC too. Symptoms of this cancer include coughing up blood, unexplained weight loss, fatigue, loss of appetite, wheezing and shortness of breath.

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