Understanding Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC)

Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) makes up 10%-15% of all lung cancers. It differs from non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in several ways including where the cancer begins, how the cancer cells look, and the way the cancer progresses. Here are some key things to know about SCLC:

  • Usually begins in the major airways in the center of the chest that leads to the lungs
  • Grows and spreads more aggressively than NSCLC
  • Common to have spread by time of diagnosis

Normal Cells vs SCLC Cells:

SCLC is sometimes called “oat-cell cancer” because the cells are oval-shaped. SCLC cells are smaller than healthy cells, and because of their size and shape can be treated with a single radiation field.

Normal Cells vs SCLC Cells
Normal Cells vs SCLC Cells

SCLC is sometimes called “oat-cell cancer” because the cells are oval-shaped. SCLC cells are smaller than healthy cells, and because of their size and shape can be treated with a single radiation field.

The Two Stages of SCLC:

There are two stages of SCLC: limited-stage SCLC and extensive-stage SCLC.

Limited-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer (LS-SCLC)

Limited-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer (LS-SCLC)
Limited-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer (LS-SCLC)

Limited-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer (LS-SCLC)

With LS-SCLC, the cancer is usually confined to one side of the chest and can be treated within a single radiation field.

With LS-SCLC, the cancer is usually confined to one side of the chest and can be treated within a single radiation field.

Extensive-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer (ES-SCLC)

Extensive-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer (ES-SCLC)
Extensive-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer (ES-SCLC)

Extensive-Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer (ES-SCLC)

With ES-SCLC, the cancer has spread from one lung to the other, or to other parts of the body. Extensive-stage is the most common type of SCLC.

With ES-SCLC, the cancer has spread from one lung to the other, or to other parts of the body. Extensive-stage is the most common type of SCLC.

Treatments for SCLC:

SCLC can be aggressive, so treatments should be initiated soon after diagnosis. Decisions might need to be made quickly so that treatment can begin. We’re here to help you feel informed so you can talk with your healthcare team to design a treatment plan that’s right for you.

In recent years, there have been advancements in SCLC treatments. Talk with your doctor about which treatments may be right for you or your loved one.