If you have diffuse small cell lung cancer but didn’t see any symptoms at first, you’re not alone. You may not feel any warning signs when this disease starts. Your doctor may discover this by accident. But it’s moving fast. When you have symptoms, it may have spread far beyond the lung where it started. This is when it reaches the broad stage.
This cancer is called a small cell, based on the size and shape of the cells under the microscope. It begins in the hormone-producing cells of the lung. The cells change and begin to spiral out of control. Your doctor will define your cancer as limited or extensive, depending on where the diseased cells have spread. Limited if they haven’t gone beyond one of your lungs or nearby lymph nodes. When they move into these areas, it’s comprehensive.
About 1 in 3 people with this condition find out that it is in the early or limited stages. But most receive diagnoses as they progress. This is because the small cell moves very quickly. By the time you find out you have it, it may already have spread to the other side of your chest. In some cases, it can happen elsewhere in your body, such as your liver or bones.
Who is at Risk for Small Cell Lung Cancer?
What makes you most likely to get this disease is if you have smoked or used tobacco in the past. Heavy smokers face the greatest risk. If you live with someone who smokes, your chances increase as well. A few other things can increase your chances of getting this disease:
- Exposure to chemicals such as asbestos and arsenic
- Living in an area with a lot of air pollution
- Exposure to more radiation than usual with (long-term) medical treatment or tests such as CT scans
Fewer people are diagnosed with small cell lung cancer these days. One reason is that fewer people smoke. There is also less tar in cigarettes on the market. If you smoke, there are still benefits to quitting after diagnosis. Not only will you feel better, but it will be easier for you to go through the treatment. It can also prolong your life.
When your cancer is widespread, it will be difficult to get rid of it all. You may receive chemotherapy and radiation as it has been shown to treat small cell lung cancer better than other types.