What distinguishes small cell lung cancer from other cancer types?


Quick Answer

Small-cell lung cancer differs from non-small cell lung cancer in several ways, including rate of growth, rate of spread, reaction to treatment and association with other syndromes, according to WebMD's eMedicineHealth resource. Small-cell lung cancer affects as many as 25 percent of all lung cancer patients.

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What distinguishes small cell lung cancer from other cancer types?
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Full Answer

Small-cell lung cancer grows rapidly as the time from development of symptoms to the initial diagnosis typically occurs in less than 90 days, notes eMedicineHealth. As many as 75 percent of small-cell lung cancer patients have the cancer in other parts of their body by the time a diagnosis is made. This type of lung cancer responds well to both chemotherapy and radiation treatments. Other syndromes or disorders may be present due to substances created by the tumor. Non-small cell lung cancer grows slower, spreads less, and is harder to treat.

Small-cell lung cancer has other names including oat cell cancer, oat cell carcinoma and small-cell undifferentiated carcinoma, says the American Cancer Society. This type of lung cancer typically starts in the center of the chest within the bronchi of the lungs. Large-cell carcinoma, contrary to other large-cell lung cancers, grows fast, starts in the center of the lungs and shows similar signs of small-cell lung cancer. Approximately 40 percent of all lung cancers are adenocarcinomas, or a type of non-small cell lung cancer found in outer portions of lungs that grows slower and is normally detected before it leaves the lungs.

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