Small cell lung cancer survival rate


Lung cancer is the most prevalent cancer in the United States, diagnosed more frequently than any other cancer, including breast cancer and prostate cancer. Between small cell lung cancer and non-small cell lung cancer—the two chief types of cancer of the lung and bronchus—an estimated 222,520 men and women in the US are diagnosed with this devastating disease each year, and a shocking 157,300 are expected to succumb to the disease in a calendar year.

Not all lung cancers are caused by smoking; it is believed that approximately 15% of all cases of lung cancer are unrelated to smoking altogether. Unfortunately, that still leaves almost 190,000 cases of this disease attributable to cigarettes and cigarette smoke—many of them fully preventable. Advocates look forward to a time when the only lung cancers diagnosed each year are those unrelated to smoking—the impact on lives, on families, on the public health, and on the economy if this day ever comes will be nothing shy of astounding.

Incidence and mortality of small cell lung cancer

The median age at diagnosis for patients with lung cancer is 71, while the median age at death for patients with this disease is 72. The disease is more prevalent in men than in women, and among men it is most prevalent among black men, and among women it is most prevalent among white women.

Small cell lung cancer survival rates by stage

According to figures published by the American Cancer Society, small cell lung cancer survival rates—expressed in terms of 5 year relative survival, meaning the percentage of people expected to be alive five years after initial diagnosis—are quite dismal: Even when discovered in the earliest stage, the 5 year relative survival rate is just 31%, while the survival rate for those whose cancer isn't discovered until it is in stage IV is an abysmal 2 percent, almost as low as that for pancreas cancer.

  • -- Stage I disease: 31%
  • -- Stage II disease: 19%
  • -- Stage III disease: 8%
  • -- Stage IV disease: 2%

Unfortunately, treatment options for patients with small cell lung cancer have not developed along with the incidence of the disease. Treatment options remain scarce and largely ineffective. The disease is so lethal that it has also been expressed as a 2 year survival rate: for early stage disease, the percentage is 40, while for advanced disease the percentage is just 5.


American Cancer Society: Small cell lung cancer

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

Boyiadzis, Michael M. et al. Hematology-Oncology Therapy. 2007. New York: McGraw Hill, Medical Publishing Division.


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