Lung Cancer (small cell) Overview

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Early Detection, Diagnosis, and Staging TOPICS

Survival rates for small cell lung cancer

Some people with cancer may want to know the survival rates for their type of cancer. Others may not find the numbers helpful, or may even not want to know them. If you do not want to know them, stop reading here and skip to the next section.

Survival rates are a way for doctors and patients to get a general idea of the outlook for people with a certain type and stage of cancer. The 5-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is found. Of course, many people live much longer than 5 years. Five-year relative survival rates compare the number of people who are still alive 5 years after their cancer was found to the survival of others the same age who don’t have cancer. This is a better way to see the impact that cancer can have on survival.

The numbers below are 5-year relative survival rates from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) database. They are based on people with small cell lung cancer treated between 1988 and 2001. Improvements in treatment since then mean that the survival rates for people with these cancers may now be higher.


    5-year relative survival rate










While these numbers provide an overall picture, keep in mind that every person’s situation is unique and the statistics can’t predict exactly what will happen in your case. Talk with your cancer care team if you have questions about your own chances of a cure, or how long you might survive your cancer. They know your situation best.

Last Medical Review: 09/09/2013
Last Revised: 02/11/2014