Small cell lung cancer has been linked to asbestos exposure, an industrial calamity that caused not only lung cancer but thousands of cases of mesothelioma – another lethal malignancy that usually develops in the outer lining of the lung rather than the tissues within the lung. Both of these forms of cancer are also heavily identified with smoking. What has become evident is that the combination of smoking and asbestos inhalation creates a very dangerous health risk.
The staging system for small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is different than that used for mesothelioma and all other forms of non-small cell cancer. There are only two classifications; those are limited, and extensive. Limited small cell lung cancer is the early form of the disease. The more widespread classification system employs four stages, each of which has subtypes of its own. If the two systems were aligned side by side, limited small cell lung cancer would incorporate stages 1, 2, and 3 of the more elaborate method.
Limited Small Cell Lung Cancer
The unfortunate fact with SCLC is that it is a very aggressive form of the disease which metastasizes to other parts of the body very early on. For that reason a case of SCLC is rarely diagnosed at the stage when it is simply a single tumor within the lung. SCLC often doesn’t exhibit the classic symptoms for lung cancer – the cough, hoarseness, coughing up blood – until after it has already traveled to distant areas within the body. In fact over two thirds of all SCLC diagnoses occur when the disease is in the extensive, or advanced state. These harsh realities mean that even the early designation for SCLC, the limited stage, means that the disease is still confined to one side of the body but may have traveled to adjacent lymph nodes.
Stage 2 Cancer Definitions
The standard method of diagnosis for cancer involves four stages, each having its own subtypes. There are 2A and 2B variations for stage 2, each delineating different possible characteristics: the tumor is under a certain size but has grown into the outer lining of the lungs (the pleura); the tumor is large and blocking an airway; and so forth. Stage 2 lung cancer is still considered to be a localized condition to some degree, although spreading to the pleura would be considered metastatic behavior. Nevertheless stage 2 is an early point in the development of lung cancer; a diagnosis of stage 2 small cell lung cancer would be unusual and very fortunate.
Stage 2 SCLC Treatment
Another characteristic of small cell lung cancer that differentiates it from non-small cell lung cancer is the fact that both chemotherapy and radiation treatment are very effective in all cases. Surgery may not be required to eliminate all malignancy regardless of the point to which the disease has advanced. In many cases chemotherapy and radiation will kill all malignant cells that tests can identify; however relapse almost always follows the initial round of treatment.