Small Cell Lung Cancer (Pulmonary Small Cell
Lung cancer is the
leading cause of cancer-related death in the world. In 2000 it was responsible for 17% of
the 6.2 million deaths due to cancer worldwide according to the International
Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). In spite of advance in
medical science, the incidence of the disease is growing steadily for 50 years, making it a serious global
Yet the tumor is one of
the most preventable medical conditions in the world. Lung cancer is mainly caused by smoking, and continues
to have a catastrophic prognosis despite real progress in the understanding of carcinogenesis made in therapy
in recent years. The main and real solution remains abstinence of tobacco use and exposure, actively and
There are two main types of lung cancer:
non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) which accounts
for 15 to 20% of all lung cancers. This distinction is highly necessary the fact these two types of cancer have totally
different characteristics: origin, aggressiveness, frequency of metastases, sensitivity to chemotherapy and
radiotherapy (please see small cell lung cancer treatment).
Pulmonary small cell carcinomas are lung cancers that occur mainly in smokers,
elderly as well as young individuals. The majority of cases are hilar (develop in the helium) or mediastinal pulmonary
tumors; more rarely, they can present as a peripheral tumors (develop
in areas away from
the center of the lungs), or insolated (less than
10% of cases).
The tumor can spread intrathoracically
or extrathoracically. Intrathoracic spreadof lung
cancer can occureither by direct
extension or by lymphatic metastasis; commonest sites of extrathoracic spreadof lung cancersare the
supraclavicular and abdominal lymph nodes, liver, adrenal glands, brain, bone and
skin. Small cell lung cancer is often
accompanied by endocrine paraneoplastic syndrome (a set of signs and
symptoms resulted from an advanced cancer in the body), leading to death within months in
most cases. Please see Small cell lung cancer symptoms.
SCLC is different from other lung cancers by a set of
• The tumor has high risk of relapse.
• High sensitivity to
chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
• The cancerous cells
reproduce extremely rapid, causing the tumor to double in size in about 30 to 40 days.
• The cancers tend to be neuroendocrine
origin, forming in the cells of the
endocrine (hormonal) and nervous systems.
• A very important
metastatic power through lymphatic and blood stream, making it unnecessary to consider surgical therapeutic
These characteristics make the
originality of small cell
lung cancer and rank it apart from other pulmonary
Small Cell Lung