What is Small Cell Carcinoma?

Small cell carcinoma is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. While it represents 13% of all lung cancers, it is otherwise rare, accounting for less than 1% of colorectal and breast cancer diagnoses. Among patients with small cell prostate cancer, roughly 50% initially show signs of small cell carcinoma but only 1% are formally diagnosed.

At Regional Cancer Care Associates, our oncologists offer treatment for all types of small cell carcinoma to help patients relieve symptoms and restore their quality of life.

Doctor Explaining Small Cell Carcinoma In The LungDevelopment and Early Warning Signs

Small cell carcinoma begins in the cells found in the skin or lining of organs. Cancer is considered to be small cell carcinoma when it develops in cells smaller in size than normal cells, which are commonly found in the lung, prostate, and pancreas. Highly malignant, small cell carcinoma also develops in the breast, colon, and brain. But no area of the body is immune to the disease, as it is known to spread rapidly.

While some patients may not experience initial symptoms, red flags will begin to rise as small cell carcinoma develops. Many symptoms are unique to the location of the cancer, while others are shared between all types of small cell carcinoma. Symptoms may include:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Pain in the bones, joints, chest, or other areas of the body
  • A change in bathroom habits, such as increased frequency of urination
  • Development of wheezing, hoarseness, chest pain, or consistent coughing

If you notice any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor immediately. He or she can perform testing to determine their cause and refer you for additional treatment if required.

Risk Factors

Several risk factors influence one’s likelihood of developing small cell carcinoma. Some cannot be controlled, such as age or a family and personal history of cancer. Others are related to lifestyle choices and can be mediated through changes in these habits and behaviors.

With the most common form of the disease developing in the lungs, the top risk factor is smoking cigarettes or cigars, with secondhand smoke a close second. Another risk factor is exposure to a radioactive gas called radon, which is naturally produced from the breakdown of uranium in rocks and soil. Those who work in mines, textile plants, shipyards, mills, and other places with insulation may be overexposed to asbestos, another risk factor for small cell carcinoma of the lung.

Other risk factors determine the potential for small cell carcinoma development elsewhere in the body. For instance, small cell prostate cancer may be influenced by age, family history, and race. For small cell carcinoma of the breast, one of the biggest risk factors is a diagnosis of small cell lung cancer, as this form of cancer spreads quickly throughout the chest.

Personalized Treatment at RCCA

While small cell carcinoma is one of the most difficult cancers to treat, the team at Regional Cancer Care Associates offers the expertise needed to provide top-quality care for every patient. Depending on a variety of factors, such as your age, overall health, and the location of your tumor, we will devise a treatment plan that may include:

If you’ve been diagnosed with small cell carcinoma, contact Regional Cancer Care Associates today. With more than 30 locations across Connecticut, Maryland, and New Jersey, it’s easy to access the care you need close to home. Visit us online for more information.