Lung Cancer - Small Cell: Statistics

Approved by the Cancer.Net Editorial Board, 03/2018

ON THIS PAGE: You will find information about the number of people who are diagnosed with small cell lung cancer each year. You will also read general information on surviving the disease. Remember, survival rates depend on several factors. Use the menu to see other pages.

Lung cancer makes up about 14% of all new cancer diagnoses. This year, an estimated 234,030 adults (121,680 men and 112,350 women) in the United States will be diagnosed with lung cancer. This includes people diagnosed with small cell lung cancer and NSCLC. About 10% to 15% of people diagnosed with lung cancer have small cell lung cancer. Black men are 15% less likely than white men to develop small cell lung cancer, and black women are 30% less likely than white women to develop the disease.

Lung cancer is the second most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer death for men and women. It is estimated that 154,050 (83,550 men and 70,500 women) deaths from this disease will occur this year.

Due to a decrease in smoking, death rates have declined by 45% since 1990 in men and 19% in women since 2002. From 2011 to 2015, the death rates for men with the disease dropped by 3.8% each year. The death rates for women declined 2.3% per year.

The 5-year survival rate tells you what percent of people live at least 5 years after the cancer is found. Percent means how many out of 100. The 5-year survival rates for all people with all types of lung cancer is 18%. In men, the 5-year survival rate is 15%. In women, it’s 21%.

Survival rates depend on several factors, including the subtype of lung cancer and the stage of disease.

If small cell lung cancer is only 1 tumor in the lungs, the 5-year relative survival rate is 31%. If the cancer has spread to nearby tissue or the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival ranges from 8% to 19%. If the cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, the 5-year survival rate is 2%.

However, some patients with advanced lung cancer can live many years after diagnosis. Sometimes, patients who are told that their lung cancer is curable do not live as long as those who are told that their lung cancer cannot be cured. The important thing to remember is that lung cancer is treatable at any stage, and these treatments have been proven to help people with lung cancer live longer with better quality of life.

It is also important to remember that statistics on the survival rates for people with small cell lung cancer are an estimate. The estimate comes from annual data based on the number of people with this cancer in the United States. Also, experts measure the survival statistics every 5 years. So the estimate may not show the results of better diagnosis or treatment available for less than 5 years. People should talk with their doctor if they have any questions about this information. Learn more about understanding statistics.

Statistics adapted from the American Cancer Society's publication, Cancer Facts & Figures 2018, and the ACS website.

The next section in this guide is Medical Illustrations. It offers drawings of body parts often affected by small cell lung cancer. Use the menu to choose a different section to read in this guide.