What are the Treatments for Small Cell Lung Cancer?

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  • Written By: K. Gierok
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 11 October 2019
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Small cell lung cancers are considered to be one of the most common forms of cancer. Though this condition is generally considered to be quite serious, treatments for small cell lung cancer are numerous and varied. One of the most common forms of treatment for this condition is surgery, though other forms of treatment, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and radiofrequency ablations, may also be effective. In some cases, a combination of various procedures provides the best results.

According to several studies, one of the most successful treatments for small cell lung cancer is surgery. Surgery to treat this condition is most effective, however, when the cancer is in its early stages. Typically, surgeries involved in the treatment of small cell lung cancer vary in aggressiveness, and can include the removal of a portion of one lobe, complete lobe removal, or complete lung removal. When done correctly, surgical procedures that are able to remove the entire cancerous mass are typically considered to provide the best prognosis. In some cases, patients who undergo this type of surgery may be back to daily activities in a period as short as a few weeks.


Common treatments for small cell lung cancer also include chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is often used before surgery in an attempt to shrink small cell lung cancer tumors to a more manageable size. In most cases, a tumor that has decreased in size through the use of chemotherapy results in a surgical procedure that significantly lowers patient risk. Chemotherapy is used in other cases for the treatment of advanced small cell cancers that have spread throughout the body. For these patients, chemotherapy is used primarily for minimizing symptoms and increasing longevity.

Another of the most common treatments for small cell lung cancer is radiation therapy. This treatment is used most commonly for patients who are not able to undergo surgery, though in other cases it may be used in addition to surgery. Radiation is also often considered to be a form of treatment for cancers that have spread, and in this manner is used most often in palliative care settings.

Radiofrequency ablations are also considered to be one of the possible treatments for small cell lung cancer. They work by heating and destroying the cancer cells on the lung. Though studies have found high success rates with the use of this treatment method, it has found to be most effective in the treatment of small cell lung cancer tumors that are on the outer edge of the lung.


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