Small cell lung cancer is also known as oat cell cancer. This is less common than non-small cell lung cancer. The typical characteristic of this type of cancer is that it grows more rapidly and is more prone to spread to other organs of your body. This starts in any one of the larger breathing tubes, grows quickly and attains larger size at the time of diagnosis.
Most of the causes for this cancer is the consequence of tobacco smoking. Smoking causes almost 87% of lung cancers and the others may be due to tobacco smoke exposure. Other etiologies of this cancer include occupational hazards such as exposure to cancer-causing agents and personal or family history of lung cancer. Doctors recommend avoiding smoking and exposure to hazardous chemicals.
Persistent coughing, continuous pain in the thoracic cavity, dyspnea, and blood during coughing are the initial symptoms of this cancer. Once this reaches the advanced stage, symptoms vary depending upon the organ where it metastasized. Once the small cell lung cancer develops metastasis in the brain, possibilities of loss memory and constant headache develop.
CT scans, MRIs, and X-rays can easily diagnose this type of cancer. By using these diagnostic methods, the location, size, and shape of the tumor can easily be detected. Sometimes lung biopsy and sputum cytology are more helpful than any other diagnostic procedure.
Limited or extensive are the two forms that usually occur as small cell lung cancer. Usually by the time this cancer is found it has multiplied progressively, and surgery is questionable to cure the cancer. The preferred treatment for this disease is surgery combined with chemotherapy.
Limited stage of small cell lung cancer
Even you are suffering from a limited stage of small cell lung cancer, most physicians suggest chemotherapy. Your physician may prefer surgery followed by chemotherapy if your lung consists of single nodule without any other evidence of cancer elsewhere. The most common combination of drugs used is carboplatin or cisplatin combined with etoposide, continued for six months. Some evidence shows that adding paclitaxel or topotecan with this combination may increase the survival rate.
In the early stages of this cancer, radiation therapy may produce successful results rather than surgery or chemotherapy. Difficulty breathing and trouble swallowing after radiation exposure may occur. Chest radiation therapy is contraindicated in other types of serious health problems or severe lung disease.
Extensive stage of small cell lung cancer
Chemotherapy alone can alleviate symptoms in the case of extensive stage of this cancer. The most preferred drug combination therapy is cisplatin or carboplatin along with etoposide. This combination improves blood cell count. After eight months the small cell lung cancer is immune to this treatment and you may opt for a second type of chemotherapy which is usually only for a short time. The common drugs used as second type of chemotherapy include docetaxel, irinotecan, gemcitabine, vinorelbine, methotrexate, paclitaxel, topotecan, ifofamide, and cyclophosphamide. Once a metastasis forms either in bone or brain, radiation therapy is sometimes used for this type of cancer in lungs.