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6 acronyms you should know when diagnosed with NSCLC

Woman doing research in a library, reading information in a large encyclopedia

When you’re diagnosed with NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancer), you’ll most likely start hearing new medical terms from your care team that you may not have heard before. Taking the time to go back and research terms can be overwhelming to say the least, so consider keeping this list handy to stay on top of what’s informing your treatment options and ongoing care.


NSCLC (non-small cell lung cancer) is one of two main types of lung cancer, occurring when abnormal cancer cells form and multiply in your lung tissues. Your oncologist will talk to you about treatment recommendations based on your specific type of NSCLC, which will most likely be adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, or large cell carcinoma. 


When you’re researching information that’s linked to NCI, that acronym is attached to the National Cancer Institute, the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training. The NCI leads, conducts and supports cancer research around the world, with a specific focus on improving cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and survivorship across the nation. You can feel confident when you read any NCI-endorsed content that it’s been vetted correctly.

CT Scan

This test is officially referred to as computerized tomography or computerized axial tomography, but is much more commonly referred to as CT or CAT scan. During the scan, a technician will use a computer linked to an x-ray machine to capture a series of detailed pictures of your chest. Your oncologist might order a CT with contrast, during which a dye will be injected into a vein or swallowed so the intended area in your body is easier to see. 

FNA Biopsy

If your oncologist requires a fine-needle aspiration biopsy (FNA), a radiologist will remove a piece of abnormal tissue or fluid from the lung using a thin needle during a CT scan, ultrasound, or another imaging procedure. This out-patient procedure typically requires a small incision that may cause some temporary bruising afterwards. 


A pulmonary function test (PFT) is used to determine how well your lungs are currently working after you’ve been diagnosed with NSCLC, and helps to determine your treatment plans moving forward. The PFT test measures your lung volume, capacity, rate of flow, and gas exchange. It can be done using a spirometer, a mouthpiece device that’s connected to a small electronic machine, or through plethysmography, where you sit in an air-tight booth before measuring the above. 


The EGFR mutation is otherwise known as an epidermal growth factor receptor. Those who are most likely to develop EGFR-positive lung cancer are female, have been diagnosed with the adenocarcinoma subtype of NSCLC, and have either never smoked or are light smokers. These mutations also occur more often in women of Asian descent.

If you would like to understand any of these NSCLC-related acronyms in more detail, as well as discuss your treatment options, side effects or symptoms, you can connect with an Outcomes4Me oncology nurse practitioner at no charge through the Outcomes4Me app, using the “Ask Outcomes4Me” button.

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