Lung Cancer Home > Small Cell Lung Cancer

Types of Small Cell Lung Cancer

There are three types of small cell lung cancer, and they include many different types of cells. The cancer cells of each type grow and spread in different ways. The types of small cell lung cancer are named for the kinds of cells found in the cancer and how the cells look when viewed under a microscope:
  • Small cell carcinoma (oat cell cancer)
  • Mixed small cell/large cell carcinoma
  • Combined small cell carcinoma.

What Causes Small Cell Lung Cancer?

Cigarette smoking is the most common cause of small cell lung cancer. Other possible causes include:
  • Smoking cigars or pipes now or in the past
  • Being exposed to secondhand smoke
  • Being exposed to asbestos or radon.

Symptoms of Small Cell Lung Cancer

Possible symptoms of small cell lung cancer include coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath. However, other conditions can also cause these symptoms.
A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
  • A persistent cough that gets worse over time
  • Chest pain that doesn't go away
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Hoarseness
  • Swelling of the face and neck
  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Unusual tiredness.

Diagnosing Small Cell Lung Cancer

Tests and procedures that examine the lungs are used to detect and diagnose small cell lung cancer. These medical procedures include:
  • Chest x-ray
  • Physical exam and history
  • Sputum cytology
  • Laboratory tests
  • Bronchoscopy
  • Fine needle aspiration biopsy
  • Thoracentesis.
Chest X-ray
A chest x-ray is an x-ray of the organs and bones inside the chest. An x-ray is a type of energy beam that can go through the body and onto film, making a picture of areas inside the body.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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