What is small cell lung cancer?
Small cell lung cancer is a cancer of the lung observed when normal lung cells become abnormal and grow uncontrollably and autonomously. There are several types of lung cancer. Some types of cancer grow very quickly, while others more slowly. Small cell lung cancer constitutes approximately 20% of all forms of lung cancer. It grows very rapidly and the vast majority of patients have a history of smoking.
What is the staging of small cell lung cancer?
The staging of cancer is a way in which doctors describe how advanced a cancer is. Stages of small cell lung cancer are totally 2: Limited small cell lung cancer and extensive small cell lung cancer.
- Patients with limited small cell lung cancer have cancer on one side of the chest, either right or left.
- Patients with extensive small cell lung cancer either have cancer on both sides of the chest (right and left simultaneously), or the cancer has already extended to other organs.
The appropriate treatment depends greatly on the stage of small cell lung cancer.
How is limited stage small cell lung cancer?
Patients with limited small cell lung cancer may receive the following treatments:
- Chemotherapy – Includes several drugs that kill cancer cells.
- Radiotherapy – radiation kills cancer cells. Most patients receive radiotherapy concurrently with chemotherapy. However, some patients start radiotherapy after chemotherapy. Usually the radiation is in the chest. But it can also refer to the head, even if there is not any focus of cancer in the head (preventive). This is because the radiation to the head was found to decrease the likelihood of future development of brain metastases from NSCLC.
How is extensive stage small cell lung cancer treated?
Patients with small cell lung cancer usually receive chemotherapy. Next, they usually have radiotherapy to the chest. It is also possible to have radiotherapy to the head for preventing brain metastases.
What happens after treatment?
After completion of treatment, your doctor will assess you in order to determine if the cancer is cured or not. It is likely to recommend you some tests, eg. chest radiographs, CT scans and blood tests. In most patients, small cell lung cancer recurs in the next 1 to 2 years.
What happens if small cell lung cancer relapses?
At relapse, it is likely for the patient to receive various chemotherapy drugs.
What if someone continues to smoke?
He should immediately stop smoking. For patients who initially respond to therapy against cancer, if they continue to smoke, the chances of cancer recurrence is increased compared to those who stop smoking.
What else can make a patient?
It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions regarding the various tests and examinations. It is also important to discuss with him about any problems or side effects during therapy. The therapeutic options for treatment of small cell lung cancer require decisions from the patient, such as the type of treatment received. Finally, every time you are proposed a treatment from your doctor you can ask the following:
- What is the benefit from this treatment? Is it possible to increase my survival? It will reduce to relieve my symptoms?
- What is the disadvantage of this treatment?
- Are there any other alternatives of this treatment?
- What happens if I do not receive this treatment?