Most lung cancers are classified as either non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) or small-cell lung cancer (SCLC). SCLC is less common but tends to be more aggressive. It’s subdivided into two main types: pure SCLC and combined SCLC.
The names “SCLC” and “NSCLC” come from the way the cancer cells look under a microscope. SCLC cells look small and round, and NSCLC cells look larger than usual.
The classification system for SCLC has changed over the years, but the most recent guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) classify it into two categories: “pure SCLC” if the cancer’s features are purely SCLC and “combined SCLC” if it also has features of NSCLC.
In this article, we take a deeper look at these two types of SCLC, including their symptoms, treatment options, and outlook.
SCLC is also called oat cell carcinoma because of the microscopic appearance of its cells. The most common form of SCLC is also called pure SCLC if it doesn’t have any features of NSCLC.
Pure SCLC makes up about
SCLC is classified as a neuroendocrine tumor, meaning that it starts in neuroendocrine cells or cells that can produce hormones in response to neurological signals.
Combined SCLC occurs when the cancer cells also have features of NSCLC. It makes up roughly
People with combined SCLC most commonly have features of a type of NSCLC called large cell carcinoma.
The symptoms, response to chemotherapy, and survival rates of pure SCLC and combined SCLC are
The main symptoms are:
SCLC is also the disease
SCLC and combined SCLC have similar risk factors, such as advanced age, male sex, and smoking history.
The median age range of people who receive a diagnosis of combined SCLC is 59 to 64 years. Males seem to be affected more often than females, possibly as a result of higher rates of smoking.
A history of smoking is by far the top risk factor for developing SCLC. Only about
Surgery is rarely used to treat pure SCLC because the cancer has usually already advanced too far to be removed by the time a doctor diagnoses it. Fewer than
Combined SCLC seems to develop more often in the outer part of the lung and is
SCLC tends to be more aggressive than NSCLC and generally has a less favorable outlook. Many people do not receive a diagnosis until the cancer has spread to distant tissues.
|Stage||5-year relative survival rate|
The 5-year relative survival rate is a measure of how many people with this type of cancer are alive 5 years later compared to people without cancer.
The outlook for combined SCLC
SCLC is less common than the other main category of lung cancer, NSCLC, but tends to be more aggressive. The classification of SCLC has changed over the years, but the newest WHO guidelines classify it as either pure SCLC or combined SCLC. Combined SCLC has some of the same features as NSCLC.
SCLC tends to have a poor outlook and be aggressive. Surgery is usually an option only if the cancer is limited to one lung, which occurs in most people with SCLC.
Your doctor can help you figure out what treatment options may give you the best chances of survival. Your doctor will likely recommend some combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy.