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Treatment Options for Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small cell lung cancer spreads quickly. In many cases, cancer cells have already spread to other parts of the body when small cell lung cancer is initially diagnosed. In order to reach cancer cells throughout the body, doctors almost always use chemotherapy. Small cell lung cancer treatment may also include radiation therapy aimed at the tumor in the lung or tumors in other parts of the body (such as in the brain).
 
Some people with small cell lung cancer receive radiation therapy to the brain even though no cancer is found there. This treatment, called prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI), is given to prevent tumors from forming in the brain.
 
Surgery is part of the treatment plan for a small number of people with small cell lung cancer.
 
You can learn more about lung cancer in the following eMedTV articles:
 
 

Prognosis for Small Cell Lung Cancer

The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options for small cell lung cancer depend on the following:
 
  • The stage of the cancer -- whether it is in the chest cavity only or has spread to other places in the body (see Small Cell Lung Cancer Stages)
 
  • The person's gender and general health
 
  • The blood level of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), a substance found in the blood that may indicate cancer when the level is higher than normal.
     
For most people with small cell lung cancer, however, current treatments do not cure the condition.
 
(For more information on lung cancer in general, you can click either Lung Cancer or Lung Cancer Treatment.)
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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