Early Detection, Treatment, and Prognosis are Key in SCLC


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Federico Albrecht, MD, discusses the standard practice on testing for a patient with small cell lung cancer at Miami Cancer Institute.

Federico Albrecht, MD, oncologist/hematologist at Miami Cancer Institute of Baptist Health South Florida, discusses the standard practice on testing for a patient with small cell lung cancer (SCLC). He also delves into the type of patient that is being cared for at Miami Cancer Institute (MCI).

According to Albrecht, SCLC is a particularly aggressive form of lung cancer that accounts for approximately 15% of cases seen at the MCI. The disease is tightly linked to smoking and is characterized by rapid growth and early spread.

At MCI, experts prioritize swift diagnosis through chest, abdomen, and brain scans, aiming for early detection of even asymptomatic brain metastases. For limited-stage patients with fluid buildup in the lungs, precise staging via thoracentesis guides treatment.


0:09 | Small cell lung cancer is a highly aggressive neuroendocrine carcinoma, accounting for more or less 15% of all lung cancers that we see at the Miami Cancer Institute. Almost all patients with this type of cancer have a history of smoking, either as current smokers or former smokers. Clinical characteristics of small cell lung cancer that distinguish [it] from non–small cell lung cancers are rapid tumor growth and early metastasis formation, so it has a worse prognosis. Small cell lung cancer is categorized in 2 stages: limited stage and extensive stage. The limited stage is defined when the radiation oncologist could encompass all the disease sites on 1 treatment field.

1:05 | At the Miami Cancer Institute, our approach after histologic confirmation of small cell lung cancer is to complete the staging process. This includes obtaining a CT scan of the chest, abdomen, and pelvis with IV contrast, or better, a PET scan. We also prioritize the brain MRI to detect early asymptomatic brain metastases or a CT scan if brain MRI is not done, but finding what's going on in the brain is very important. In patients that present with pleural effusion, a limited stage-small cell lung cancer, we always conduct a thoracentesis to ensure accurate determination of the disease extension. To enable rapid initiation to systemic therapy, we ask our skilled thoracic surgeons to promptly place a port-a-cath.

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