Small cell lung cancer, also called to as SCLC, is the less common form of lung cancer, making up about ten to 15 percent of all lung cancers. Small cell lung cancer is a fast-growing, aggressive form of lung cancer that starts in the center of the chest and spreads quickly to other parts of the body including the lymph nodes, bones, brain and liver. It is mainly caused by smoking tobacco products and is rarely seen in people who are not smokers.
Since small cell lung cancer is such a fast-growing cancer, surgery is usually not a treatment option. Typically, it is treated with one or more of the following options:
External beam radiation, which delivers high energy rays to kill and destroy cancer cells, is most often used to treat small cell lung cancer. It is given in combination with chemotherapy in early stages of the disease or it can be used to try to shrink more advanced tumors in order to try to relieve pain, coughing and shortness of breath caused by the cancer. Additionally, radiation therapy can be used to treat brain metastases that have resulted from the small cell lung cancer.
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The main treatment for small cell lung cancer, chemotherapy is given in cycles every three to four weeks. A combination of two of the following chemotherapeutic agents usually is given for initial treatment: carboplatin, cisplatin, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, etoposide, irinotecan or vincristine. If the cancer continues to grow or recurs after initial treatment other chemotherapy agents such as docetaxle, ifosfamide, gemcitabine, paclitaxel, topotecan or vinorelbine also may be given
Clinical Trial Treatment
Another option to treat small cell lung cancer is to enroll in a clinical trial where researchers are either investigating a new, innovative treatment option or a new treatment regimen consisting of different combinations or doses of existing anticancer therapies. Enrollment in a clinical trial should be coordinated closely with the treating oncologist.