Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small cell lung cancer, or small cell carcinoma, is a type of
rapidly spreading lung cancer characterized by the small, almost “oat”
like shape of the malignant cells affecting the lung.  Comprising about
20 percent of lung cancer cases, small cell lung cancer has an
extremely high mortality rate.  There are three types of small cell
lung cancer, named for shape and size of the cancer cells: small cell
carcinoma, mixed small cell/large cell carcinoma and combined small
cell carcinoma. In addition to being shaped differently, the three
subsets of small cell lung cancer grow differently and spread at
varying rates. For the best treatment options early detection is
crucial in light of small cell lung cancer’s tendency to spread rapidly
to other body parts and organs.

Some of the main risk
factors for small cell lung cancer include family history and an
exposure to asbestos, although cigarette smoke whether direct or
secondhand, still contributes to by far the most new cases of lung
cancer annually.  The best prevention against small cell lung cancer is
to never smoke and strictly limit exposure to second hand smoke.  A few
symptoms which may appear as a result of small cell lung cancer are a
persistent cough, pain or tightness in the chest, unexplained weight
loss and coughing blood.  However, the symptoms are not limited to this
short list and will vary according to individual overall health, stage
and size of the cancer growth. Being proactive in your health care and
speaking to your doctor about possible risk factors you may have will
enable the best diagnosis and treatment possible.

If you feel
you may be at risk for lung cancer and your doctor deems testing
necessary, there are a few options available to your doctor to choose
from. Simple chest x-rays may first detect possible signs of small cell
lung cancer which may lead to mucous testing for the presence of
malignant cells or a procedure called a bronchoscopy in which tissue
samples can be collected for biopsy.   Speaking with your doctor about
small cell lung cancer screening and avoiding risk factors can aid in
the treatment of this most fatal disease.