Small Cell Carcinoma | Tampa General Hospital

Small Cell Carcinoma 

Small cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that can grow very rapidly and spread to other organs. It’s sometimes referred to as oat-cell cancer because the cancer cells may appear to look like oats under a microscope. Small cell carcinoma can develop in various parts of the body, but it most often occurs in the lungs (known as small cell lung cancer). About 10-15% of lung cancer cases are small cell carcinomas. 

Causes of Small Cell Carcinoma 

Like other types of cancers, small cell carcinoma has no known cause. However, there are certain risk factors that can increase your chance of developing small cell lung cancer. These include: 

  • Smoking or using tobacco products 
  • Secondhand smoke 
  • Radiation exposure from cancer treatments, home radon or diagnostic imaging scans 
  • Advanced age 
  • Family history of lung cancer 
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) 
  • Workplace exposure to asbestos, arsenic, nickel, tar or other chemicals 
  • Air pollution 

Symptoms of Small Cell Carcinoma 

Because small cell carcinoma often grows rapidly, early-stage small cell lung cancer that hasn’t spread rarely causes symptoms. As the disease progresses, however, you may experience: 

  • Chest pain or discomfort 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Chronic cough that doesn’t go away or worsens 
  • Fatigue 
  • Coughing up blood (hemoptysis)
  • Facial swelling 
  • Wheezing 
  • Hoarseness 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Swollen neck veins 
  • Unexplained weight loss 

Diagnosis for Small Cell Carcinoma 

If you’re showing any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor to review your medical history and receive a physical exam. Your doctor may recommend you to a team of oncology specialists, like the ones found at Tampa General Hospital, for diagnostic tests such as: 

  • Computed tomography (CT) 
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scans  
  • Biopsy 
  • Bronchoscopy 
  • Sputum cytology (testing mucus you cough up for cancer) 
  • Blood tests 

Treatment for Small Cell Carcinoma 

If TGH oncologists  determine that you have small cell carcinoma or another type of lung cancer, they will discuss treatment options and any possible risks or side effects.   

The most common treatment for small cell carcinoma includes: 

  • Radiation therapy 
  • Chemotherapy 
  • Surgery
  •  Immunotherapy