Many of us know at least one person who suffers from lung cancer. In fact, in 2018 it made up over 15% of all new cancers among men. This can be caused by many factors including smoking and air pollution. While we’ve heard of the main cancer category you might be surprised to learn about the two main types of lung cancer including small cell lung cancer (SCLC). The other type is non-SCLC lung cancer and is more common. As always, it’s important to know as much as possible about SCLC so you can take steps to prevent it.
Let’s Talk About Small Cancer Cells
When we hear that the cancer cells are small that might seem like a good thing. It might seem like the smaller cells might be less dangerous to healthy cells. However, the opposite is true. SCLC is actually more aggressive.
Here’s why. The cancer cells grow faster and move to other parts of the body. This causes more problems because those body parts also have to battle the cancer cells.
As always, it’s important to detect SCLC as soon as possible. This makes it easier to deal with cancer. Let’s discuss some key issues like what SCLC is, and symptoms/stages related to it.
Small Cell Lung Cancer
This type of lung cancer is actually less common than non-SCLC (NSCLC). In fact, it’s not even close. NSCLC makes up around 85% of all cases of lung cancer in the United States.
When comparing SCLC with NSCLC there’s some relatively good news about SCLC. It’s much less common than NCLC so you’re less likely to suffer from this type of lung cancer compared to NSCLC. That’s a good thing.
Another fact is it also responds better to chemotherapy versus NSCLC. So, if you opt for that type of treatment there’s a better chance the treatment will effectively kill the cancer cells. This isn’t to say there’s a 100% chance it will work. On the other hand, it provides some hope that the treatment will be more effective.
There are various steps you can take to help avoid getting SCLC. They include stop smoking and minimize your exposure to second-hand smoke. People often focus on the dangers of smoking but secondhand smoking can also be very dangerous because you’re breathing in many strong chemicals.
There are other things that increase your risk of SCLC. They include exposure to different metals like nickel and arsenic. You should also avoid exposure to radiation since this can also increase your chance of getting SCLC. Watch out for the gas Radon since it can increase your chance of lung cancer.
An X-factor of sorts is diet. It might be surprising since food doesn’t seem to be related much to breathing. In fact, scientists don’t fully understand how diet affects lung cancer risks. Eating fruits and veggies seems to reduce people’s risk of getting SCLC. Those foods also help to reduce the risk of other kinds of cancer.
Prevention is indeed better than cure. However, if you think you have some symptoms of SCLC it’s important to contact your doctor immediately.
Signs and Stages
It’s important to know the symptoms of SCLC, as well as the different ages. Here are some of the main signs to watch out for:
- Weight Loss: If you seem to be losing weight for no reason it could be a sign of lung cancer.
- Coughing: This is more likely a sign of SCLC if the coughing is heavy and continuous
- Coughing up Blood: This could show the cancer cells are attacking your lungs. Always get this symptom checked out.
- Shortness of Breath: Since the lungs are critical for breathing this symptom could be a sign you have lung cancer.
- Chest Pain: This could be the sign of various health conditions including SCLC.
Various Stages of SCLC
Limited Stage Lung Cancer
In this stage, cancer only exists on one side of the chest. The lymph nodes could be affected also.
The lymph nodes are small/round structures that are important in the human body’s immune system. Several of them are located in regions like the head, neck, and armpit region.
As with other types of cancer, it’s critical to catch cancer in the earliest stages. This makes it easier to treat and eliminate it.
In this stage, the cancer has spread to the chest’s other side. So, it then affects both lungs. Cancer also has attacked other parts of the body like the lymph nodes.
Another warning sign to look for is fluid around the lungs. This is another sign the cancer has advanced to the advanced stage.
The problem is the cancer can’t be cured when it gets to this stage. The American Cancer Society reports two-thirds of people who are diagnosed with SCLC are in the 2nd stage.
If you’ve been diagnosed with SCLC then you can undergo different treatments based on the particular stage, you’re in.
If you’re in the Limited Stage then doctors often recommend surgery in order to remove e a small tumor. This is especially true if there’s no cancer anywhere else including the lymph nodes.
This might seem like a safe treatment but in fact, it’s rarely used to treat SCLC. That’s because it involves removing part of the lung and is only recommended if your health is relatively good. If that’s not the case then it’s not the right treatment for you.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapies are more common types of treatment for SCLC. Sometimes the two therapies are done at the same time. This option has pros and cons. It can super-charge your treatments but will also have more side-effects.
In some cases, radiation therapy is off the table. For example, if you have a major lung disease or other major health problem then this isn’t an option for you.
Sometimes low-dose radiation treatment is given to the head. This is done to help prevent the cancer from spreading from the lungs to the head. However, this isn’t always done since some people might suffer side-effects from the radiation treatment.
If the cancer advances to the extensive stage then radiation therapy or surgery are often used as the first treatment. Chemotherapy is another option if your health is fairly good and you have extensive SCLC.
This is usually combined with a drug to boost your immune system. Various prescription meds are available so your doctor can help sort things out for you and select the best one for you.
There’s a high chance the cancer will return within time. However, there’s still a chance the treatment will control the small cell lung cancer.