Small Cell Carcinoma
Small cell carcinoma is a type of cancer that most commonly affects the lungs, but can also affect the prostate and other parts of the body.
A carcinoma is a malignant tumor comprised of transformed epithelial cells. A small cell carcinoma can therefore present itself in different organs. It most commonly affects the lungs, where it is referred to as small cell lung cancer. In the lungs, small cell carcinoma is a highly malignant, aggressive, fast growing form of cancer that can metastasize rapidly, more so than non-small cell lung cancer. It is found at a slightly higher incidence in men than in women. It’s also known as “oat cell cancer”, due to the shape of the cells, which resemble oats.
What causes small cell carinoma?
In the lungs, the most common cause, by far, is smoking cigarettes. Tobacco smoking can lead to a host of health problems; lung cancer is one of the most problematic. The lungs are the primary organ in the respiratory system. They are located in the chest, and their role is to pull oxygen into the body as a breath is drawn, and to expel carbon dioxide when a breath is exhaled. The lungs are made up of sections known as “lobes”. Interestingly, while the right lung contains three lobes, the left has only two. This is on account of the fact that the right lung is slightly larger in size.
The lungs are surrounded by a thin membrane layer, known as the “pleura”. There are tubes (2 of them) known as “bronchi”, which follow away from the windpipe; they lead to both lungs. Sometimes, the bronchi may be affected by lung cancer. Small tubes, known as “bronchioles”, along with small air sacs called “alveoli” comprise the remaining internal structure of the lungs.
As mentioned previously, the biggest risk factor for small cell lung cancer is smoking. Tobacco smoke contains hundreds of chemicals, along with particulate matter and, potentially, remnants of fertilizers and agricultural chemicals.
Summary of Small Cell Carcinoma Risk Factors
- Smoking pipes, cigars or cigarettes
- Secondhand smoke
- Asbestos or radon exposure