Small cell lung cancer staging is important in order to determine the best treatment options for your particular cancer. Staging can also help your doctor understand your prognosis so she can discuss this with you. What are the stages of small cell lung cancer?
Staging MethodsSmall cell lung cancer is most often broken down into two stages: limited stage small cell lung cancer and extensive stage small cell lung cancer. Another staging method, TNM staging, is used more often with non-small cell lung cancer, and with a few exceptions, is not particularly helpful in determining treatment options and prognosis in small cell lung cancer.
Small Cell Lung Cancer Stages
Limited Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer
Small cell lung cancer is considered limited stage when it is confined to only one lung, and may have spread to the area between the lungs (the mediastinum), and/or to nearby lymph nodes, but not to other regions of the body. About a third of small cell lung cancers are detected when they are limited stage.
Extensive Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer
A small cell lung cancer is considered extensive stage when it has spread to the other lung, to lymph nodes on the other side of the chest, or to distant regions of the body such as the brain. About two-thirds of small cell lung cancers are extensive stage when diagnosed.
Importance of StagingDividing small cell lung cancer into stages is important when it comes to choosing the best treatment. If a small cell lung cancer is limited stage, the tumor has a potential to be cured with chemotherapy and radiation therapy, and in rare cases, surgery. If a tumor is extensive stage at the time of diagnosis, a cure is unlikely, and the goal of treatment is to extend life if possible and reduce symptoms of the tumor.
Staging TestsIn order to determine the stage of a small cell lung cancer, several tests are usually performed. These may include a:
- History and physical exam, and blood tests
- Chest x-ray
- CT scan of the chest -– to evaluate how extensive the tumor is
- CT Scan of the abdomen -– to look for spread to the liver or adrenal glands
- A CT or MRI of the brain -– to look for brain metastases
- Bone scan –- to look for bone metastases
- Bone marrow biopsy- – this is done in rare instances in which the results of the biopsy may alter treatment
National Cancer Institute. Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatment (PDQ). Health Professional Version. Stage Information for Small Cell Lung Cancer. Updated 07/08/10. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/treatment/small-cell-lung/HealthProfessional/page3