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Small-Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC): Overview of symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

  • Posted on- Oct 15, 2015
  • 381 Views

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC), formerly called oat cell carcinoma, is considered different from other lung cancers, which are called non–small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs) because of their clinical and biologic features.

Small cell lung cancer is an aggressive form of lung cancer showing belligerent behaviour, rapid growth, early spread to nearby body parts and resistance to chemotherapy and radiation. Without treatment, in a few weeks it could be fatal. It is important to determine if the cancer is limited or at an advanced stage. There are two main types of small cell lung cancer- (i) Small cell carcinoma and (ii) Combined small cell carcinoma. People who smoke, exposure to radon and asbestos are linked to small cell lung cancer.

Signs and symptoms of small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

Signs and symptoms of small cell lung cancer can include:


When the tumour extends to other parts of the body, it may cause:

Tests and diagnosis of small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

After you have shown signs and symptoms of small cell lung cancer, your doctor may order certain tests and procedures to diagnose small cell lung cancer:
  • Physical exam and medical history: An exam of the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. Medical history and eating habits will also be taken into account.
  • Lab Tests: Medical procedures that test samples of tissue, blood, urine, or other substances in the body. These tests help in devising the right treatment.
  • Chest X-ray: An X-ray to look for the organs and bones inside the chest.
  • CT scan of the brain, chest, and abdomen: A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles.
  • Sputum cytology: A microscope is used to check for cancer cells in the sputum
  • Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer.

Available treatments for small cell lung cancer (SCLC)

Different types of treatment are available for patients with small cell lung cancer:
  • Surgery: Surgery may be used if the cancer is found in one lung and in nearby lymph nodes only. Because this type of lung cancer is usually found in both lungs, surgery alone may not be used. During surgery, the doctor will also remove lymph nodes to find out if they contain cancer.
  • Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses medications to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It is administered by mouth or injected into the vein.
  • Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy is a cancer treatment that uses high-energy rays to execute cancer cells or keep them from growing. There are two types of radiation therapy- External and Internal.
  • Laser therapy: It is a cancer treatment that uses a laser beam to kill cancer cells.

Studies suggest that learning what you can do about your lung cancer can improve your quality of life, and possibly even your prognosis.

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