Skip to content

    Lung Cancer Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ®): Treatment - Health Professional Information [NCI] - General Information About Small Cell Lung Cancer

    continued...

    Diagnosis

    Treatment options for patients are determined by histology, stage, and general health and comorbidities of the patient. Investigations of patients with suspected SCLC focus on confirming the diagnosis and determining the extent of the disease.

    The procedures used to determine the presence of cancer include the following:

    • History.
    • Physical examination.
    • Routine laboratory evaluations.
    • Chest x-ray.
    • Chest computed tomography scan with infusion of contrast material.
    • Biopsy.

    Before a patient begins lung cancer treatment, an experienced lung cancer pathologist must review the pathologic material. This is critical because SCLC, which responds well to chemotherapy and is generally not treated surgically, can be confused on microscopic examination with NSCLC.[4] Immunohistochemistry and electron microscopy are invaluable techniques for diagnosis and subclassification, but most lung tumors can be classified by light microscopic criteria.

    (Refer to the Staging Evaluation section in the Stage Information for Small Cell Lung Cancer section of this summary for more information about tests and procedures used for staging.)

    Prognosis and Survival

    Regardless of stage, the current prognosis for patients with SCLC is unsatisfactory despite improvements in diagnosis and therapy made during the past 25 years. Without treatment, SCLC has the most aggressive clinical course of any type of pulmonary tumor, with median survival from diagnosis of only 2 to 4 months. About 10% of the total population of SCLC patients remains free of disease during the 2 years from the start of therapy, which is the time period during which most relapses occur. Even these patients, however, are at risk of dying from lung cancer (both small and non-small cell types).[5] The overall survival at 5 years is 5% to 10%.[1,5,6,7]

    An important prognostic factor for SCLC is the extent of disease. Patients with LD have a better prognosis than patients with ED. For patients with LD, median survival of 16 to 24 months and 5-year survivals of 14% with current forms of treatment have been reported.[1,6,8,9] Patients diagnosed with LD who smoke should be encouraged to stop smoking before undergoing combined-modality therapy because continued smoking may compromise survival.[10]

    1 | 2 | 3
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Xray analysis
    Do you know the myths from the facts?
    chest x-ray
    Get to know them.
     
    woman taking pills
    Tips to managing them.
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
     
    Lung Cancer Risks Myths and Facts
    SLIDESHOW
    Woman getting ct scan
    Article
     
    Improving Lung Cancer Survival Targeted Therapy
    VIDEO
    cancer fighting foods
    Article
     
    Lung Cancer Surprising Differences Between Sexes
    VIDEO
    Pets Improve Your Health
    SLIDESHOW
     
    Vitamin D
    SLIDESHOW
    Lung Cancer Surgery Options
    VIDEO