Small cell is a type of lung cancer that happens when abnormal cells grow out of control in the lungs. The cells form tumors and invade nearby tissue. The cancer usually starts in the breathing (bronchial) tubes in the lungs. Small cell lung cancer grows fast and can spread quickly.
What causes small cell lung cancer?
Small cell lung cancer is caused by smoking or being around secondhand smoke. It rarely happens in people who have never smoked.
What are the symptoms of small cell lung cancer?
The first signs of early small cell lung cancer may include coughing, chest pain, wheezing, feeling short of breath, and fatigue. There may also be blood in the mucus that was coughed up. The symptoms of later stages can include swelling of the face. They also include hoarseness, trouble swallowing, and weight loss.
How is small cell lung cancer diagnosed?
A biopsy and chest X-rays are used to diagnose small cell lung cancer. You may have a CT scan and other tests. Your doctor will also do a physical exam. The doctor will ask about your symptoms, your past health, if you smoke or have smoked, and any family history of cancer.
How is small cell lung cancer treated?
Treatment for small cell lung cancer is based on the stage of the cancer and other things, such as your overall health. This cancer has two stages: limited stage and extensive stage. The main treatments for both stages are:
These medicines kill fast-growing cells, including cancer cells and some normal cells. Chemotherapy and radiation may be given together. (This is called chemoradiation.)
This uses high-dose X-rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors. It may help prevent or treat the spread of cancer to the brain.
This treatment helps your immune system fight cancer. It may be given along with chemotherapy.
Sometimes other treatments are used, and in some cases, a clinical trial may be a good choice.
Your doctor will talk with you about your options and then make a treatment plan.