Small Cell Lung Cancer


Small cell lung cancer, also known as oat cell cancer, oat cell carcinoma, and small cell undifferentiated carcinoma, comprises about 10-15% of all lung cancers. It starts in the bronchi near the center of the chest, and grows and spreads quickly. It usually spreads to other parts of the body before it is diagnosed.

General Information

Lung cancer (both small cell and non-small cell) is the second most common type of cancer in both men and women (behind skin cancer). It accounts for about 27% of all cancer deaths, and each year more people die of lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. Lung cancer occurs most commonly in people over the age of 65.

There are two types of lung cancer: small cell and non-small cell.

Non-small cell lung cancer. About 85-90% of lung cancers are non-small cell lung cancers. Types of non-small cell lung cancer include squamous cell (epidermoid) carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, and large cell (undifferentiated) carcinoma.

Small-cell lung cancer. This cancer is named for the size and shape of the cancer cells when viewed under a microscope. There are several risk factors for small cell lung cancer, including smoking, exposure to second-hand smoke, and exposure to asbestos or radon. Small-cell lung cancer is very responsive to chemotherapy; however, the survival rate is poor. People who are diagnosed with extensive small cell lung cancer have a two-year survival rate of less than 2%.

Small cell lung cancer is diagnosed by a pathologist using lab studies of specimens collected through a fine-needle biopsy. The stage of the disease is determined by imaging such as CT scans, MRIs, or PET scans. Treatment of small cell lung cancer is done with a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.

Social Security Administration POMS DI 23022.320 — Small Cell Lung Cancer

Small cell lung cancer is listed under the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) Compassionate Allowance Program, which was launched in 2008 to expedite certain disability claims. Applying for disability benefits under the Compassionate Allowance Program requires the same procedure every applicant must follow when applying for SSA disability benefits; however, you will be notified if your condition is being considered as a compassionate allowance.

The SSA will require the pathology report of a lung biopsy to make the determination of disability. Your representative may be able to expedite your disability claim based on a diagnosis of small cell lung cancer.