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How Is Small Cell Lung Cancer Treated?

Small cell lung cancer – a type of cancer that develops in the tissue of the lungs – has various treatment options based on the stage of cancer a patient presents with. Small cell lung cancer is typically staged as either limited or extensive. In most cases, the cancer has spread by the time it is discovered, so the terms “limited” and “extensive” describe how much the cancer has spread.

Limited stage small cell lung cancer treatment options

In the event that a patient only has one small tumor in the lung and the cancer has not spread to the lymph nodes, surgery may be considered to remove the tumor. Surgery is usually only an option when the cancer has not spread, and is often followed by chemotherapy. However, very few patients with small cell lung cancer are treated this way, as the cancer is often either too large or has spread by the time it has been discovered.

Most patients with limited stage small cell lung cancer will be treated with a method called concurrent chemoradiation, during which chemotherapy and radiotherapy are administered at the same time. Patients undergoing this method of treatment must be in relatively good health, as the side effects of concurrent chemoradiation tend to be more severe. Patients who are not healthy enough to withstand this method of treatment are often administered chemotherapy first, followed by radiation therapy to the chest.

Extensive stage small cell lung cancer treatment options

Extensive stage small cell lung cancer treatment typically involves chemotherapy, as the cancer has progressed too much for radiotherapy or surgery to be beneficial. If the cancer responds well to chemotherapy, radiotherapy (to the chest) may later be administered.

In treating both extensive and limited stage small cell lung cancer, radiotherapy to the brain may also be considered to prevent the cancer from spreading there, which is a common occurrence in small cell lung cancer cases.

If you have been diagnosed with small cell lung cancer and would like to explore your treatment options at Moffitt Cancer Center, request an appointment by calling 1-888-663-3488 or submitting a new patient registration form online. You do not need a referral to do so.