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). 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.
Improved long-term survival in patients with LD has been shown with combined-modality therapy.[9,11][Level of evidence: 1iiA] Although long-term survivors have been reported among patients who received either surgery or chemotherapy alone, chemotherapy combined with thoracic radiation therapy (TRT) is considered the standard of care. Adding TRT increases absolute survival by approximately 5% over chemotherapy alone.[11,13] The optimal timing of TRT relative to chemotherapy has been evaluated in multiple trials and meta-analyses with the weight of evidence suggesting a small benefit to early TRT.[1,14,15][Level of evidence: 1iiA]
In patients with ED, median survival of 6 to 12 months is reported with currently available therapy, but long-term disease-free survival is rare.
Prophylactic cranial radiation prevents central nervous system recurrence and can improve survival in patients who have had a complete response to chemoradiation.[16,17][Level of evidence: 1iiA]
All patients with this type of cancer may appropriately be considered for inclusion in clinical trials at the time of diagnosis. Information about ongoing clinical trials is available from the NCI Web site.
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- Govindan R, Page N, Morgensztern D, et al.: Changing epidemiology of small-cell lung cancer in the United States over the last 30 years: analysis of the surveillance, epidemiologic, and end results database. J Clin Oncol 24 (28): 4539-44, 2006.
- American Cancer Society.: Cancer Facts and Figures 2011. Atlanta, Ga: American Cancer Society, 2011. Also available online. Last accessed July 27, 2011.
- Travis WD, Colby TV, Corrin B, et al.: Histological typing of lung and pleural tumours. 3rd ed. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 1999.
- Johnson BE, Grayson J, Makuch RW, et al.: Ten-year survival of patients with small-cell lung cancer treated with combination chemotherapy with or without irradiation. J Clin Oncol 8 (3): 396-401, 1990.
- Fry WA, Menck HR, Winchester DP: The National Cancer Data Base report on lung cancer. Cancer 77 (9): 1947-55, 1996.
- Lassen U, Osterlind K, Hansen M, et al.: Long-term survival in small-cell lung cancer: posttreatment characteristics in patients surviving 5 to 18+ years--an analysis of 1,714 consecutive patients. J Clin Oncol 13 (5): 1215-20, 1995.
- Turrisi AT 3rd, Kim K, Blum R, et al.: Twice-daily compared with once-daily thoracic radiotherapy in limited small-cell lung cancer treated concurrently with cisplatin and etoposide. N Engl J Med 340 (4): 265-71, 1999.
- J�nne PA, Freidlin B, Saxman S, et al.: Twenty-five years of clinical research for patients with limited-stage small cell lung carcinoma in North America. Cancer 95 (7): 1528-38, 2002.
- Videtic GM, Stitt LW, Dar AR, et al.: Continued cigarette smoking by patients receiving concurrent chemoradiotherapy for limited-stage small-cell lung cancer is associated with decreased survival. J Clin Oncol 21 (8): 1544-9, 2003.
- Pignon JP, Arriagada R, Ihde DC, et al.: A meta-analysis of thoracic radiotherapy for small-cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med 327 (23): 1618-24, 1992.
- Chandra V, Allen MS, Nichols FC 3rd, et al.: The role of pulmonary resection in small cell lung cancer. Mayo Clin Proc 81 (5): 619-24, 2006.
- Warde P, Payne D: Does thoracic irradiation improve survival and local control in limited-stage small-cell carcinoma of the lung? A meta-analysis. J Clin Oncol 10 (6): 890-5, 1992.
- Perry MC, Eaton WL, Propert KJ, et al.: Chemotherapy with or without radiation therapy in limited small-cell carcinoma of the lung. N Engl J Med 316 (15): 912-8, 1987.
- Takada M, Fukuoka M, Kawahara M, et al.: Phase III study of concurrent versus sequential thoracic radiotherapy in combination with cisplatin and etoposide for limited-stage small-cell lung cancer: results of the Japan Clinical Oncology Group Study 9104. J Clin Oncol 20 (14): 3054-60, 2002.
- Aup�rin A, Arriagada R, Pignon JP, et al.: Prophylactic cranial irradiation for patients with small-cell lung cancer in complete remission. Prophylactic Cranial Irradiation Overview Collaborative Group. N Engl J Med 341 (7): 476-84, 1999.
- Slotman B, Faivre-Finn C, Kramer G, et al.: Prophylactic cranial irradiation in extensive small-cell lung cancer. N Engl J Med 357 (7): 664-72, 2007.