Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) Differential Diagnoses

Updated: Jun 07, 2023
  • Author: Winston W Tan, MD, FACP; Chief Editor: Nagla Abdel Karim, MD, PhD  more...
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Diagnostic Considerations

Non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) must be differentiated from small cell lung cancer (SCLC) in order to plan appropriate treatment. SCLC is usually more aggressive than NSCLC and presents as a central lesion with hilar and mediastinal invasion along with regional adenopathy. Many patients with SCLC already have metastatic disease at initial diagnosis. The most common sites of metastasis of lung cancer are the bones, liver, adrenal glands, pericardium, brain, and spinal cord. [44]

Other conditions to be considered include the following:

  • Benign lung tumors
  • Carcinoid lung tumors
  • Granuloma
  • Hamartoma
  • Metastatic cancer
  • Pneumomediastinum
  • Pneumonia, empyema, and abscess
  • Pneumothorax, tension and traumatic

Differential Diagnoses