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What are the characteristics of stage IV small cell cancer?

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The five-year relative survival rate of stage IV small cell cancer is 2 percent, according to Cancer.org. Small cell lung cancer accounts for between 10 and 15 percent of all lung cancers. African-American men are 15 percent less likely to develop small cell lung cancer than white men, although they are at greater risk for other types of lung cancer.

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Typically, symptoms of small cell lung cancer do not appear until the disease has already reached an advanced stage, notes Cancer.org. Small cell lung cancers tend to spread very early, making it more likely that the cancer is discovered after it has spread. Typically, the only way that early-stage small cell lung cancer is discovered is through imaging tests such as chest X-rays or bronchoscopies that are taken for other reasons, such as patients with heart disease or pneumonia. Additionally, some patients mistake the symptoms of stage IV small cell cancer as an infection or long-term effects from tobacco smoking, delaying diagnosis further.

The National Lung Screening Trial has shown that individuals who regularly participate in lung screening tests have a 16 percent lower chance of dying from lung cancer than those who only get chest X-rays, and were 7 percent less likely to die from any cause compared to those who only got chest X-rays, notes Cancer.org.

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