How is small cell lung cancer treated?

Penn Medicine
Treatment options for small cell lung cancer vary depending on your situation, including the stage of the cancer and other factors that may be present. It is ideal to talk with your healthcare team about the approach that is best for you. Overall, the options that are available include:
  • Surgery
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Laser therapy
  • Endoscopic stent placement
The most common treatment for small cell lung cancer is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy medications are taken by mouth or by injection and treat the cancer by attacking the malignant cells. Another possible treatment is radiation therapy, often conducted in conjunction with chemotherapy, in which radiation is directed at the specific areas of the body in which the cancer resides, to kill cancer cells and reduce the size of tumors. Surgery is rarely recommended for small cell lung cancer because this type of lung cancer spreads quickly, and surgery is most effective for cancers that are located in one place.
Johns Hopkins Medicine
Chemotherapy is the most common treatment for small cell lung cancer, as these medicines circulate throughout the body killing lung cancer cells that may have spread outside of the lung.

Surgery is most commonly used in non-small cell lung cancers and less frequently in small cell lung cancer (SCLC), which tends to spread more quickly to other parts of the body.

Radiation therapy is frequently used in combination with chemotherapy when the tumor is confined to the lung and other areas inside of the chest. Radiation therapy may also be used to prevent or treat the development of SCLC that has spread to the brain (metastasis).

In radiation therapy, precisely targeted X-rays are used to destroy localized cancer cells. Radiation therapy can be used to prevent tumor recurrence after surgery, to treat tumors in patients who are not candidates for surgery, or to treat tumors causing symptoms in other parts of the body

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.