In the past, surgery for small cell lung cancer was not really considered an option. Most often, when small cell lung cancer is found, it has already spread to areas beyond the lungs (metastasized). In that setting, chemotherapy and radiation therapy are better treatment options.
But physicians are again looking at a small subset of people who may benefit, and live for a long time, following successful surgery for small cell lung cancer.
Surgery may offer the chance for long-term survival for people who fall into the following group:
- Have limited stage small cell lung cancer (less than 10% of people would fit this criteria)
- Cancer is present in only one lung and doesn't involve any lymph nodes (or only nearby lymph nodes), especially if the cancer is in the outer parts of the lung
If surgery is considered, a very careful evaluation will need to be done, including a mediastinoscopy (a procedure that looks for cancer in the area between the lungs), to make sure the cancer has not spread.
If surgery is done, it is also important that chemotherapy be used after surgery, since this improves survival. Prophylactic cranial irradiation (PCI), a type of radiation designed to help prevent the spread of cancer to the brain, may also be used to lower the risk of cancer spreading to the brain after surgery.
- Surgery for Lung Cancer
- Limited Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer – Symptoms, Treatments, and Prognosis
- Extensive Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer – Symptoms, Treatments, and Prognosis
Koletsis, E. et al. Current role of surgery in small cell lung carcinoma. Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery. 2009. 4:30.
National Cancer Institute. Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Updated 09/19/11. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/small-cell-lung/Patient/page4