Small cell cancer survival rate

Of the over 220,000 people in the US each diagnosed with lung cancer, about 10-15% of them will be diagnosed with the subtype of small cell lung cancer. While all lung cancers are serious, the prognosis for small cell lung cancer is especially dire.

In small cell lung cancer, the cancer cells are small and have the capacity to divide quickly and metastasize, meaning that surgery tends not to be the top option for treatment. Rather, since the cancer cells are so aggressive, chemotherapy tends to be the optimal induction treatment for this patient population.

Small cell cancer survival rates by stage

The survival rates for small cell lung cancer—expressed in terms of 5 year relative survival, meaning the percentage of people expected to be alive five years after initial diagnosis—are collected by the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER).

  • -- Stage I: 31%
  • -- Stage II: 18%
  • -- Stage III; 9%
  • -- Stage IV: 2%

These 5 year relative survival rates reflect the extremely poor prognosis in patients with small cell lung cancer, but they do indicate that the earlier the disease is found, the better the chances of survival.

Also one must keep in mind that each patient is different and will be evaluated differently .


American Cancer Society, Small cell lung cancer

National Cancer Institute SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Cancer of the lung and bronchus


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