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small_cell_adam.jpg (12260 bytes)

see typical Xray appearance of small cell


Small Cell Cancer of the Lung     see video

Small Cell Carcinoma of the Lung (SCL) behaves differently from the other types of lung cancer (which are grouped together and called non-small cell lung cancers or NSCL).

Compared to these other types of lung cancer, small cell is a more rapid growing (and spreading) form of cancer. This makes it more likely to metastasize and present in more advanced stages, but makes it more sensitive to treatment with radiation or chemotherapy. See reviews here and here.

For this reason, surgery was rarely used for small cell and chemo/radiation was the most effective therapy (though the role of surgery is now changing go here). For early stage small cell cancer the results with surgery are better than chemoradiation (go here).

Survival has increased from 1% (surgery alone) to  5% (radiation alone, in 1969 MRC trial) to 26% in see Turrisi study and up to 30% in other recent trials for patients with limited stage small cell. By pushing the radiation dose higher (RTOG 97-12) survival rates nay be as high as 46-61%/ 3 years. Go here for a recent update. Go here for more on the role of radiation, then go here for the next section