Hearing your doctor say that you have non-small cell lung cancer can bring about a lot of emotions. It can be helpful to have a better understanding of what lung cancer is.

What is non-small cell lung cancer?

Lung cancer occurs when the cells in your lungs start to grow unusually or uncontrollably. The most common type of lung cancer is called non-small cell lung cancer. With this type of lung cancer, unusual growth takes place inside your lungs or the lining of the airways. As more cancer cells grow, they can form into a tumor. As the disease advances, it may spread to the areas around your lungs or to other parts of your body. This is called metastatic non-small cell lung cancer.

What are some of the symptoms of non-small cell lung cancer?

There can be many different symptoms associated with NSCLC. It is important to be aware of what they are so that you can discuss them with your healthcare provider.

The most common signs and symptoms of lung cancer may include:

  • A cough that does not go away or gets worse
  • Coughing up blood or rust-colored spit
  • Chest pain that may get worse when taking deep breaths, coughing, or laughing
  • Hoarseness
  • Weight loss and loss of appetite
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia that don’t go away or keep coming back
  • New onset of wheezing

When lung cancer spreads to distant organs (metastatic lung cancer), it can cause other symptoms, which may include:

  • Bone pain (like pain in the back or hips)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Swelling of the face
  • Bulging veins on the neck and head
  • Lumps in the neck or above the collarbone
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Headache
  • Weakness or numbness of an arm or a leg
  • Dizziness
  • Balance problems
  • Seizures

Experiencing the above symptoms does not necessarily mean you have lung cancer. However, it is very important to talk to your healthcare team if you experience any of these symptoms. Your healthcare team has the knowledge and the tools needed to make the appropriate diagnosis.

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