'Oat cell' lung cancer: an aggressive form of the disease
Don't let the name fool you.
The cancer with the funny name -- oat cell -- is aggressive and fatal, according to leading cancer treatment and research institutions.
Oat cell cancer is named for its small, oval-shape that resembles an oat grain when viewed by a microscope, according to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Oat cell is one of the small cell lung cancers -- lung cancers are either grouped as small cell or nonsmall cell -- the Cancer Treatment Centers said. While it typically starts in the central bronchi, oat cell can -- though seldom -- start in the prostate gland.
Lung cancer is the biggest killer among cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2008, an estimated 208,493 Americans were diagnosed with lung cancer -- 158,592 died from it. The Cancer Treatment Centers said small cell cancer is responsible for about 20 to 25 percent of lung cancer. The American Cancer Society, however, estimates small cell cancer to be as low as 10 to 15 percent of cancer cases.
Smoking, second-hand smoke and exposure to asbestos or radon are the most common risk factors, according to the National Cancer Center (NCC) at the National Institute of Health.
Along with the patient's medical and smoking history and symptoms, doctors can use several test to diagnose whether a person may or may not have oat cell cancer. Diagnostics can include:
•Sputum cytology -- a microscope will analyze mucus coughed up from the lungs.
•Fine needle aspiration of the lung -- tissue or fluid is taken from the lung via thin needle. Using a CT scan, ultrasound or other imaging procedure, abnormal tissue is found in the lung before a small incision is made where the biopsy needle is inserted, NCC said. A sample is removed and sent to a laboratory, where a pathologist will analyze the sample for cancer cells.
The NCC said a variety of factors including cancer stage, tumor size and location determine the course of treatment for oat cell. The patient's gender, general health and age are also considered.
Typically, oat cell rapidly metastasizes and spreads to other organs such as bones, brain, lymph nodes, adrenal glands and liver, making it extremely difficult to treat surgically. The NCC said because surgery is usually not an option, chemotherapy and radiation therapies are typically combined to combat oat cell.
For more information, visit the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America at www.cancercenter.com or the National Cancer Center at the National Institute of Health www.cancer.gov.