Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and other neuroendocrine tumors (NETs) are a group of cancers that originate from neuroendocrine cells, which release hormones into the bloodstream when they receive signals from the nervous system.
NETs that affect the lungs include SCLC, large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LCNEC), and carcinoid tumors.
NETs can also arise in organs such as the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, and more. Over time, NETs may spread to other areas of the body through metastasis.
This article examines SCLC and other neuroendocrine tumors, exploring the different types, risk factors, diagnosis process, and more.
A NET, also known as a neuroendocrine neoplasm or neuroendocrine carcinoma, is a rare tumor originating from neuroendocrine cells.
These cells are present in various organs of the body, including the:
- small and large bowel
Different types of NETs exist depending on where the cancer initially develops. For example, when a tumor starts growing in the lungs, doctors refer to it as a lung NET.
- small cell lung cancer (SCLC)
- large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma (LCNEC)
- typical carcinoid
- atypical carcinoid
SCLC is an aggressive type of cancer that grows quickly and rapidly spreads to other parts of the body. It accounts for about
According to a
It is very aggressive and typically relates to heavy smoking. In most cases, the cancer spreads to other areas of the body before diagnosis.
According to the
The ACS states that around 90% of carcinoid tumors are TC and that they do not usually relate to smoking.
Atypical carcinoid (AC) tumors have a fast growth rate and a higher tendency to spread to other organs. AC tumors are
Risk factors vary for each type of NET. According to a
- male sex
- older age
This article suggests that people with carcinoid tumors are typically younger, and the tumors have no association with smoking.
- being 45–55 years of age
- having multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) syndrome
- having a family history of lung carcinoid tumors
It also suggests that smoking may be a risk factor for AC tumors.
If a doctor suspects lung cancer, they may use various methods to determine if cancer is present, what type of cancer it is, and if the cancer has spread beyond the lungs.
According to the
- Chest X-ray: A chest X-ray helps doctors find any abnormalities in a person’s lungs.
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan: A CT scan uses specialized X-rays to capture detailed images of the body’s internal structures. Doctors may also use it for biopsy procedures.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan: A PET scan uses a sugar solution injection in a vein to highlight areas of potential cancer activity. Doctors may combine this with a CT scan.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan: An MRI scan uses radio waves and may help doctors learn if NETs have spread to other parts of the body.
- Biopsy: A lung biopsy involves the removal of a small portion of the lung tumor. Doctors may use this test to identify the type of lung cancer a person has.
- Bronchoscopy: In a bronchoscopy, doctors pass a thin tube through the mouth to visually inspect a person’s airways and collect tumor samples or fluid for analysis.
Treatment approaches can vary for different types of lung NETs. They may also vary depending on the stage of the cancer and the overall health of the individual.
A combination of surgery and other therapies is also a
Despite SCLC’s initial high responsiveness to chemotherapy, there is a high likelihood of cancer recurrence. Unfortunately, upon recurrence, the cancer may resist previously effective chemotherapy regimens.
While doctors can attempt alternative chemotherapy regimens, their effectiveness is typically lower. Moreover, the returning cancer is often extremely aggressive.
Other types of NETs may have a
SCLC is an aggressive form of neuroendocrine cancer. NETs grow where neuroendocrine cells reside, which includes several areas in the digestive tract and lungs.
Other types of lung NETs include LCNEC and carcinoid tumors. Risk factors vary depending on the type of NET.
Treatment depends on the type of tumor, the location, and if the cancer has spread beyond the lungs. However, doctors will typically use a combination of treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery.
The outlook for people with NETs may depend on an early diagnosis, a person’s overall health, and how well they respond to treatment.