Small-cell cervical cancer is a rare type of cervical cancer that grows and spreads quickly. The outlook for people with small-cell cervical cancer is poorer than with other more common types of cervical cancer.
There are rarer types of cervical cancer as well. One of these rare cervical cancers is small-cell cervical cancer (SCCC). SCCC only accounts for
Continue reading to discover more about SCCC. We’ll cover its symptoms, risk factors, and how it’s diagnosed and treated.
Neuroendocrine cancer starts in hormone-producing cells called “neuroendocrine cells.” These cells are found throughout the body, including in the cervix.
SCCC is an aggressive type of cervical cancer, which means that it typically grows and spreads quickly.
Other types of cervical cancer
Compared with SCCC, other types of cervical cancer are much more common. These include:
- squamous cell carcinoma, which represents
up to 90%of cervical cancers and starts in the cells that line the outer part of your cervix
- adenocarcinoma, which begins in the mucous-producing cells of the cervix
- mixed carcinomas, which are a type of cervical cancer that has features of both squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma
The symptoms of SCCC are similar to those of other types of cervical cancer.
It’s possible not to have any noticeable symptoms when cervical cancer is in its early stages. When symptoms are present, they may include:
- atypical vaginal bleeding, such as bleeding that happens:
- periods that last longer and are heavier than is normal for you
- vaginal discharge that may contain blood
- pelvic pain, including pain during sex
If cervical cancer has spread outside of the cervix, it may cause symptoms such as:
Cancer in general happens when cells in your body have changes in their DNA that cause them to grow uncontrollably.
Because SCCC is very rare, its specific risk factors aren’t well defined. As with other types of cervical cancer, an common risk factor for SCCC is having a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection.
HPV is a virus that’s transmitted through direct contact, typically during sex. Because many HPV infections are asymptomatic, it’s possible to have HPV and not know it.
Recommended screening for cervical cancer
- Ages 21 to 29: Get a Pap smear once every 3 years.
- Ages 30 to 65: Get a Pap smear once every 3 years, get a high-risk HPV (hrHPV) test every 5 years, or get a Pap smear plus hrHPV test every 5 years.
If the results of cervical cancer screening are atypical or you have symptoms of cervical cancer, a doctor will order a colposcopy. A colposcope is a device with a light and magnifying lens that lets the doctor closely examine your cervix.
The doctor will add a vinegar-based solution to your cervix to help flag any suspicious areas. A biopsy is often done during a colposcopy.
A biopsy sample can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cervical cancer. If cancer is found, tests can be done to determine the type of cancer and its characteristics.
If your condition is diagnosed as SCCC, additional tests can help to stage your cancer. Tests can include:
- imaging tests, such as:
- blood tests such as a complete blood count and metabolic panel
- other visual examinations such as a cystoscopy and sigmoidoscopy
Small-cell cervical cancer stages
The staging of SCCC is
- Stage 1: Cancer is found only in the cervix.
- Stage 2: Cancer has spread to the upper part of the vagina or to the tissue around the uterus.
- Stage 3: Cancer has spread to the lower part of the vagina, pelvic wall, or both. Cancer may also be found in nearby lymph nodes or may be causing kidney problems.
- Stage 4: Cancer has spread to more distant areas of the body, which is called “metastasis.”
Research from 2022found that two of the most common metastatic sites for SCCC are the lungs and liver.
Because it’s very rare, the ideal treatment of SCCC
- Surgery: Surgery for SCCC often involves what’s called a “radical hysterectomy.” Nearby lymph nodes may be removed as well. Sometimes chemotherapy may be given after surgery, which is referred to as “adjuvant chemotherapy.”
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy for SCCC is typically given as a combination of the drugs etoposide and cisplatin.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation therapy for SCCC may be given externally or internally (brachytherapy). Sometimes, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are used together, a treatment which is called “chemoradiation.”
SCCC is an aggressive type of cervical cancer, which means that it’s more likely to have already spread to the lymph nodes or more distant tissues by the time of diagnosis.
The outlook for people with SCCC is worse than other types of cervical cancer,
- being an older age at the time of SCCC diagnosis
- having a more advanced stage of SCCC at diagnosis
- receiving radiation therapy as your initial treatment
SCCC is a rare but aggressive type of cervical cancer, and it starts in hormone-producing cells called “neuroendocrine cells.”
The outlook for people with SCCC is typically poor. As with many cancers, the outlook is better when the cancer is identified and treated early. Talk with a doctor if you have concerning symptoms such as atypical vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain.
It’s also important to receive regular