Small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) can metastasize, or spread, to the liver. Treatment will depend on the stage of the condition. Usually, doctors treat it with chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, or a combination of all three.
SCLC is a serious condition that causes cancerous cells to grow in lung tissue. These cancerous cells can also spread to other areas of the body. Doctors call this spreading of cancerous cells metastasis.
SCLC can be localized to the lung or regional to the surrounding tissues. It can also metastasize to distant areas, including the liver.
Keep reading to learn about the survival, symptoms, and treatment for people with metastatic SCLC to the liver.
However, the number of lung cancer cases has fallen in recent years, partially due to fewer people smoking.
Doctors typically measure life expectancy with cancer as a 5-year survival rate. This refers to the proportion of people who survive for at least 5 years after they receive their diagnosis.
According to the ACS, the 5-year survival rate for SCLC is around 7% when combining all stages together. When breaking down 5-year survival into stages, the rates are as follows:
- 27% for localized SCLC
- 16% for regional SCLC
- 3% for distant SCLC
When cancer spreads from the lungs to the liver, doctors describe it as distant SCLC. Only around 3% of people with distant SCLC will survive for 5 years from when they receive a diagnosis.
Researchers have based these survival rates on the average from many different cases. However, survival rates are only ever an estimate, and life expectancy and prognosis will differ from person to person.
Symptoms of SCLC include:
- persistent cough
- coughing up blood
- chest pain
- difficulty breathing
- wheezing and hoarseness
- loss of appetite
- unexplained weight loss
- difficulty swallowing
- swelling in the face and neck
When SCLC metastasizes to the liver, additional symptoms might include:
Doctors use various tests to diagnose SCLC and determine whether it has spread to other areas, such as the liver.
Additionally, doctors will ask about symptoms and possible risk factors, such as smoking, and check a person’s medical record and family history.
Determining whether cancerous cells have spread to the liver and other body parts is crucial for deciding on the most suitable treatment.
Treatment for people with SCLC will depend on the stage of the condition.
Most people with SCLC that has spread to the liver will require chemotherapy. This involves taking drugs that target and kill cancer cells. However, chemotherapy drugs also attack healthy cells and can cause side effects, such as nausea and tiredness.
Another approach is combining chemotherapy with radiation therapy, which kills cancerous cells using high intensity radiation.
Some people will respond well to treatment, which can stop or slow the spread of the cancer to other parts of the body.
Another treatment option is palliative care alongside other forms of treatment. This is a need-based form of care that focuses on easing symptoms and improving a person’s quality of life.
For SCLC, palliative care might include opening airways blocked by tumors, or draining fluid that has built up around the lungs or heart.
Metastatic SCLC is a serious condition that can have a major impact on a person and those around them. It typically requires aggressive treatment, which can cause a range of side effects and complications.
Supporting someone with metastatic SCLC can improve their quality of life during this difficult time. The ACS recommends the following for supporting someone with cancer:
- Regularly call and text them and try to be as responsive as possible.
- Visit them in person to provide physical and emotional support.
- Offer to help with errands, such as picking up groceries.
- Give them small presents, such as something practical or enjoyable.
Everyone will respond differently to cancer, and they will require different kinds and amount of support. It is important to be adaptable and nonjudgmental when providing support to someone with metastatic SCLC.
SCLC is a serious condition that can spread, or metastasize, to other parts of the body, including the liver.
The prognosis for people with metastatic SCLC is generally poor, with most people surviving for a few months after diagnosis. However, life expectancy of some people with SCLC may be longer, especially if they respond well to early treatment.
Doctors will typically treat metastatic SCLC aggressively, using treatments such as chemotherapy.
Providing emotional and physical support to someone with SCLC can improve their quality of life.