What is Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)?

There are two types of lung cancer; small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). SCLC is believed to account for around 20% of all lung cancer diagnosis. This type of cancer develops when the small cells of the lung start to grow in a rapid and uncontrolled way. Eventually this leads to the formation of a malignant (cancerous) tumour in these cells. SCLC is often referred to as oat cell carcinoma because the small cells of the lung look similar to oats. In this article I will be discussing SCLC in greater detail.

There are actually three types of small cell lung cancer; small cell carcinoma, mixed small cell/large cell carcinoma and combined small cell carcinoma. In each type the cancer cells grow and spread in different ways.

1) SMALL CELL CARCINOMA:- This is the most common form of SCLC representing around 95% of all cases. This name is given when the cancer only affects the small cells of the lung.

2) MIXED SMALL CELL/LARGE CELL CARCINOMA:- This is a less common sub-type of SCLC accounting for 4%-6% of all cases. It occurs when the characteristics of both small cell lung carcinoma and large cell carcinoma (a type of NSCLC) are present. This sub-type is resistant to both chemotherapy and radiation.

3) COMBINED SMALL CELL CARCINOMA:- This is the least common sub-type of SCLC and accounts for approximately 1% of all cases. It occurs when the small cell carcinoma combines with either squamous cell carcinoma (a type of NSCLC that develops in the cells lining the airways) and/or adenocarcinoma (a type of NSCLC that develops in the mucus producing cells).

Smoking is the leading risk factor for small cell lung cancer and is thought to be responsible for over 90% of SCLC occurrences. However, exposure to other substances including asbestos, radon and uranium are also thought to increase your risk for this type of cancer.

Since SCLC affects your lungs the symptoms associated with this type of cancer are linked to this area of the body. Some of the most common small cell lung cancer symptoms include a regular cough, breathlessness, chest pain and coughing up mucus or blood. If you notice any of these symptoms you should go see your doctor right away and explain your concerns. They will then be able to perform a number of tests and if necessary start you on a SCLC treatment plan.

Most people are unaware of the different types of lung cancer. Although small cell lung cancer is the less common of the two types it is still very dangerous and can prove fatal if ignored. I hope this article has given you a better understanding of small cell lung cancer. If you have any concerns regarding this condition then go and see your doctor right away. They will be able to provide you with their professional opinion and give you the best advice possible.

Whilst every intention has been made to make this article accurate and informative, it is intended for general information only. Small cell lung cancer is a very serious, life threatening condition and you should discuss any concerns, treatments or lifestyle changes fully with your doctor.

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