Small cell cancer is a type of lung cancer.
Most small cell cancers start in the lung but they can first occur elsewhere in the body—for example in the bowel, bladder or prostate. Small cell cancers grow fast and spread quickly, so they are hard to cure. Small cell lung cancer is sometimes called oat cell cancer because the abnormal cells look like oats under the microscope.
Blood and lymph moves through the lungs as it circulates throughout the body. So it is very easy for small cell cancer cells to spread very quickly. This kind of cancer can spread to any organ, but most commonly affects the brain, liver, adrenal glands, and bone.
In most cases, by the time it is discovered, it has already reached other parts of the body. Often small cell cancers are in other organs even before it shows up on imaging tests. That's why it can't be cured simply by removing the lung tumor. The standard treatment includes chemotherapy with or without radiation, but not surgery.
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