Living with Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small cell lung cancer is less common than non-small cell lung cancer, occurring in only 10-15% of all lung cancer cases. However, it multiplies more quickly and is almost exclusive to smokers. Small cell lung cancer usually forms in the breathing tubes – or bronchi – located in the center of the lungs, and can rapidly move to other parts of the body. Fewer than 34,000 new cases of small cell lung cancer are diagnosed in the United States each year, and survival rates vary depending on the stage at which the cancer is caught.

Cigarette smoking is considered by far the leading risk factor for developing small cell lung cancer, accounting for nearly all cases. Symptoms of small cell lung cancer mimic other conditions and are often overlooked. These include: persistent or frequent cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, fatigue, hoarseness, and lasting chest pain. There are two stages for small cell lung cancer: limited-stage, in which cancer is localized to one lung, the tissues in-between the lungs, or nearby lymph nodes; and extensive-stage, in which the cancer has spread beyond the lungs and possibly to other areas of the body. Small cell lung cancer treatments include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, stent placement, or a combination of several.

For more information on small cell lung cancer, read the American Cancer Society's detailed guide.

If you have been affected by small cell lung cancer, please be sure to take some time to read others' experiences, share your own experiences, and ask or answer questions. Don't forget to view our Beginner's Guide to Cancer.

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