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Small Cell Lung Cancer

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Asbestos-Caused Small Cell Lung Cancer

If You Think Asbestos Exposure May Play a Role in Your SCLC Diagnosis, Call Us To Learn About Your Rights

Less common than NSCLC, small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is the second-most common type of lung cancer. Seen in 10-15% of cases, it is also known as oat cell lung cancer due to its appearance.

Small cell lung cancer generally originates in areas surrounding the bronchi, which are the airways that connect the windpipe and lungs, and then spreads to the glands known as the bronchial submucosa. Unlike NSCLC, it metastasizes in the early stages of the disease and infiltrates the lymph nodes in the space between the lungs, bones, liver, adrenal glands, and brain.

Because it spreads so quickly, most often SCLC is often not caught until the viable care options are palliative treatments. This cancer can take lives in as little as a few weeks after its discovery, causing heartbreak and upheaval in you and your family’s lives. Anyone who developed SCLC as a result of asbestos exposure has the right to file a claim against a negligent company or companies to blame. Doing so can help you cover the high costs of cancer care and provide financial support for your family moving forward.

If you want to learn more about your right to compensation after an SCLC diagnosis, call us at (866) 262-8170. Our asbestos exposure attorneys are here to help you with a free consultation, no matter where you are in the U.S.

Diagnosing Small Cell Lung Cancer

Signs and Symptoms of Small Cell Lung Cancer

The symptoms of SCLC are often the same as those of NSCLC at the beginning. Patients with SCLC are more likely to develop additional symptoms as the disease metastasizes. They include:

  • New and lingering cough
  • Coughing up blood
  • Hoarseness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Bone pain
  • Headache

In addition, the patient may also develop certain syndromes (characterized by certain groupings of symptoms) such as:

  • SIADH (syndrome of inappropriate anti-diuretic hormone): This condition causes the sodium level in blood serum to fall too low possibly resulting in too much fluid in the blood. If untreated, it can cause seizures and/or coma
  • (Ectopic) Cushing syndrome: The hormone adrenocorticotropic is produced by the cancer cells rather than the pituitary gland. This hormone promotes the creation of cortisol, a stress hormone, and can cause a number of symptoms including a fattening of the face and neck, puffy eyes, and a ruddy complexion.
  • Lambert-Eaton syndrome: This condition causes muscles to weaken, starting with those around the hips. It may expand to threaten shoulder muscles as well.

Causes of Small Cell Lung Cancer

Though genetic risk factors for SCLC may apply, most cases are caused by some form of toxic exposure:

  • Smoking is the primary cause of SCLC. Approximately 98 percent of all diagnosed patients are or were smokers. Secondhand smoke exposure can also increase someone’s risk of developing this cancer.
  • Asbestos exposure, whether in the workplace or secondhand, puts someone in danger of developing lung cancer. If they are also a smoker, this risk increases.
  • Radon exposure can happen to those who work with uranium or at home if you live near a natural source of uranium that is breaking down.
  • Previous radiation therapy targeting the chest can increase a patient’s risk of later developing lung cancer.

Small Cell Lung Cancer Prognosis

SCLC only has 2 stages: limited and extensive. Limited stage SCLC has only affected one side of the chest, meaning treatment is possible using only one radiation field. Extensive stage cancer has spread throughout the lung and/or to the lung and lymph nodes on the other side of the chest. It may also have metastasized to other body parts.

Nearly 65-70 percent of SCLC patients present with extensive disease at the initial diagnosis. At this point, there is sadly no cure possible. If left untreated, the average survival time is six weeks. However, patients who present with early-stage SCLC who are left untreated have an average survival time of 12 weeks.

Small Cell Lung Cancer Treatments

Treatments for Limited Stage SCLC

The standard of care for small cell lung cancer is usually a 3 to 6 week chemotherapy regimen of cisplatin (brand name Platinol) and etoposide (brand names Eposin, Etopophos, Vepesid) combined with radiation to the thorax. These therapies are given concurrently.

However, if a patient presents with a smaller tumor involvement, a doctor may suggest a mediastinoscopy. Using an endoscope to look at the area between the lungs, a doctor will search for signs of lymph node involvement. Where there is none the patient may be available for surgery. Options include lobectomy, which is the surgical removal of the diseased lobe of the lung; wedge resection, which is the surgical removal of only the affected area of the diseased lobe; or a pneumonectomy, which is the surgical removal of the entire diseased lung. Surgery is typically followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment.

Treatments for Extensive Stage SCLC

The first-line treatments for patients with extensive stage SCLC are typically chemotherapy and immunotherapy. When the cancer has spread to the other side of the chest or elsewhere in the body, neither surgery nor radiation are effective treatments.

Chemotherapy may shrink the cancer enough that radiation treatment becomes an option. Unfortunately, even when SCLC seems to have disappeared, it is likely to recur. Metastasis is also common and depending on the location can call for additional specialized treatments. Brain metastasis is typically addressed with a combination of high doses of corticosteroids and radiation therapy. If the patient presents with spinal cord compression, the standard management includes radiation therapy and/or surgical decompression.

When chemotherapy is not a viable option for a patient, a doctor may recommend laser surgery or other palliative measures to help relieve the cancer’s symptoms.

Preventative Therapy After Remission

It’s rare for SCLC to be diagnosed quickly enough to be beaten. Patients who have complete remission may be offered cranial irradiation to prevent future brain metastasis—a common location for the spread of SCLC.

Smoking Can Hurt Treatment Efforts

Because cigarettes contain toxic materials, smoking can interfere with any sort of cancer treatment. However, the risk is especially clear with lung cancer. Smoking can cause lung cancer and, if a patient does not quit after being diagnosed, can increase the risk of developing another form of cancer. Your doctor has likely advised you to quit before, but after a SCLC diagnosis, it’s more important than ever to make the change. They may be able to provide you with nicotine patches or anti-craving medications. Or, you might turn to a counselor who can help you find other ways to manage stress and strong emotions as you stop smoking.

We Can Help Patients with Asbestos-Caused Illness

Despite the long history of asbestos harming employees, companies continued to use the product well into the 1980s in the U.S. Though it has been mostly banned from our marketplace today, there are still some older products that contain the material. Additionally, people who were exposed a long time ago may still be developing related diseases. The companies who caused this should be held responsible, and our team at Shrader & Associates, L.L.P. is here to help you do that.

By filing a claim for SCLC, you may be able to recover damages like missed work, loss of earning potential, medical treatment, and more. Having financial options can help reduce your stress during this time, and so can having a dedicated legal team fighting for you. Our team can take on the work of filing a claim, so you have more time to spend on your health and with your family. We offer guidance and all-around support to you and your family because we know how difficult your situation is.

If you think asbestos exposure may have caused your SCLC, reach out to Shrader & Associates, L.L.P. at (866) 262-8170. We offer free consultations to patients across the country.

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