How do the symptoms of non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) vary by subtype?

Updated: Jun 05, 2020
  • Author: Winston W Tan, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Nagla Abdel Karim, MD, PhD  more...
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Answer

The symptoms produced by the primary tumor depend on its location (ie, central, peripheral). [1] Central tumors are generally squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs) and produce cough, dyspnea, atelectasis, postobstructive pneumonia, wheezing, and hemoptysis.

Most peripheral tumors are adenocarcinomas or large cell carcinomas and, in addition to causing cough and dyspnea, can cause symptoms due to pleural effusion, and severe pain as a result of infiltration of parietal pleura and the chest wall. Because of their peripheral location, adenocarcinomas may not call attention to themselves until they have produced extrathoracic metastases. For example, patients may present with clinical signs of bone spread or intracranial metastatic disease.


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