Lobectomy leads to optimal survival in early-stage small cell lung cancer: A retrospective analysis

John M. Varlotto, Abram Recht, John C. Flickinger, Laura N. Medford-Davis, Anne Marie Dyer, Malcolm M. Decamp*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Objective: Stage I or II small cell lung cancer is rare. We evaluated the contemporary incidence of early-stage small cell lung cancer and defined its optimal local therapy. Methods: We analyzed the incidence, treatment patterns, and outcomes of 2214 patients with early-stage small cell lung cancer (1690 with stage I and 524 with stage II) identified from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database from 1988 to 2005. Results: Early-stage small cell lung cancer constituted a stable proportion of all small cell lung cancers (3%-5%), lung cancers (0.10%-0.17%), and stage I lung cancers (1%-1.5%) until 2003 but, by 2005, increased significantly to 7%, 0.29%, and 2.2%, respectively (P < .0001). Surgery for early-stage small cell lung cancer peaked at 47% in 1990 but declined to 16% by 2005. Patients treated with lobectomy or greater resections (lobe) without radiotherapy had longer median survival (50 months) than those treated with sublobar resections (sublobe) without radiotherapy (30 months, P = .006) or those treated with radiotherapy alone (20 months, P < .0001). Patients undergoing sublobe without radiotherapy also demonstrated superior survival than patients receiving radiotherapy alone (P = .002). The use or omission of radiotherapy made no difference after limited resection (30 vs 28 months, P = .6). Multivariable analysis found survival independently related to age, year of diagnosis, tumor size, stage, and treatment (lobe vs sublobe vs radiotherapy alone). Conclusions: Surgery is an underused modality in the management of early-stage small cell lung cancer. Lobectomy provides optimal local control and leads to superior survival. Although sublobar resection proved inferior to lobectomy, it conferred a survival advantage superior to radiotherapy alone. The addition of radiotherapy to resection provided no additional benefit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)538-546
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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