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


The role of positron emission tomography (PET) is still under study. SCLC is fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) avid at the primary site and at metastatic sites. PET may be used in staging patients with SCLC who are potential candidates for the addition of thoracic radiation therapy to chemotherapy, as PET may lead to upstaging or downstaging of patients and to alteration of radiation fields resulting from the identification of additional sites of nodal metastases.

Evidence (FDG-PET):

  1. In a study of 120 patients with LD SCLC or ED SCLC, ten patients were upstaged and three patients were downstaged.[5] PET was more sensitive and specific than CT scans for nonbrain distant metastases.
  2. In a small series of 24 patients with LD by conventional staging, two patients were upstaged to ED.[2] Unsuspected nodal metastases were documented in 25% of patients, which altered the radiation plan in these patients. At this time, sensitivity, specificity, and positive- or negative-predictive value of PET scanning and its enhancement of staging accuracy are uncertain.


  1. Lung. In: Edge SB, Byrd DR, Compton CC, et al., eds.: AJCC Cancer Staging Manual. 7th ed. New York, NY: Springer, 2010, pp 253-70.
  2. Bradley JD, Dehdashti F, Mintun MA, et al.: Positron emission tomography in limited-stage small-cell lung cancer: a prospective study. J Clin Oncol 22 (16): 3248-54, 2004.
  3. Shepherd FA, Crowley J, Van Houtte P, et al.: The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer lung cancer staging project: proposals regarding the clinical staging of small cell lung cancer in the forthcoming (seventh) edition of the tumor, node, metastasis classification for lung cancer. J Thorac Oncol 2 (12): 1067-77, 2007.
  4. Ihde D, Souhami B, Comis R, et al.: Small cell lung cancer. Lung Cancer 17 (Suppl 1): S19-21, 1997.
  5. Brink I, Schumacher T, Mix M, et al.: Impact of [18F]FDG-PET on the primary staging of small-cell lung cancer. Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging 31 (12): 1614-20, 2004.

WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

Last Updated: February 25, 2014
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