February 18, 2013 8:00 am

Dr. Kris Gast ~ Ask the Pros

Posted in: Ask the Pros

Radiation Oncologist at Fort Smith Radiation OncologyQ:  My father has lung cancer.  After diagnosing it as a Stage 4 small cell, his doctor told him treatment wouldn’t be worth it and recommended hospice.  Is there treatment available?

A: Small cell lung cancer accounts for 15% of all lung cancers and usually is caused by smoking. Without any treatment, small cell lung cancer grows rapidly and spreads quickly, usually taking the person’s life in two to four months.  However, small cell lung cancer is the most responsive type of lung cancer, which means it’s very sensitive to chemo and radiation.  When patients are given chemotherapy, life expectancy can jump up to one year. Unfortunately, in more than half of the people with small cell lung cancer, the cancer also spreads to the brain. Because of this possibility, for people whose lung cancer has responded to chemotherapy, doctors may additionally prescribe radiation therapy to the brain to help prevent this spread. This procedure is known as prophylactic cranial irradiation, which may add another six months to the patient’s life expectancy.  Therefore, yes, treatment for small cell lung cancer does exist and can give the patient considerably more time with friends and family.

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