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Small cell, large cell cancer: What this meansBy Mayo Clinic staff
Original Article: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/cancer/AN00654
- With Mayo Clinic medical oncologist
Timothy J. Moynihan, M.D.read biographyclose window
Timothy J. Moynihan, M.D.Timothy Moynihan, M.D.
"As a practicing medical oncologist, I meet with patients and families every day to help manage their course through this disease called cancer. This experience provides unique insight into the needs of cancer patients, their families and loved ones and brings into sharp focus the need for reliable information to be readily available in terms that can be easily understood." — Dr. Timothy Moynihan
Dr. Timothy Moynihan believes that providing consumers with accurate, timely information on the broad, complex topic of cancer is the biggest challenge facing medical websites. As the guiding force behind our cancer content, he makes sure Mayo Clinic meets the test.
Dr. Moynihan, born in Las Vegas, N.M., and raised in Denver, is a consultant in medical oncology at Mayo Clinic and an associate professor at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minn. He's board certified in internal medicine, medical oncology, and hospice and palliative care medicine.
He did his medical oncology training at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and then went on to the University of Minnesota and St. Paul Regions Medical Center for seven years before moving to Mayo Clinic in 1999. Dr. Moynihan is medical director of the Mayo Clinic hospice.
Dr. Moynihan serves as the education chair for the Department of Oncology and the fellowship program director. Four times he has been selected as Teacher of the Year in medical oncology and elected to the Teacher of the Year Hall of Fame.
Past honors include distinguished clinical teacher at the University of Minnesota Medical School, best internist at the Medical College of Wisconsin and recipient of the Upjohn Achievement Award for Excellence in Medicine. Dr. Moynihan serves on several national committees for the American Society of Clinical Oncology.
"The Internet provides a ready source of information on a wide range of topics of interest to those affected by cancer," Dr. Moynihan says. "The difficulty is trying to decide which sites provide reputable information and which information is relevant to each individual patient. The long history and tradition of excellence associated with Mayo Clinic assures you that information provided will be reliable, up-to-date and comprehensive."
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- Small cell, large cell cancer: What this means
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Alternative medicine (2)
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Small cell, large cell cancer: What this means
Why are some cancers described as small cell and some as large cell? What do these terms mean?
from Timothy J. Moynihan, M.D.
The terms "small cell" and "large cell" are merely descriptive terms for the appearance of the cancer cells under the microscope. In addition to determining the appearance of the cells, your doctor will also perform tests to determine the size of the cancerous area, how abnormal the cells are, and whether the cancer has spread to lymph nodes or other sites. While each of these factors is important, classifying a cancer based on its microscopic appearance helps your doctor determine:
- The likely course or outcome (prognosis) of the cancer
- The most effective treatment for a specific cancer
Common terms used to describe the appearance of cancer cells include:
- Clear cell. The inside of the cell appears clear. Examples include some kidney, ovarian and uterine cancers.
- Spindle cell. The cell is narrower at both ends than at the center. Examples include some breast, gastrointestinal, muscle or other soft tissue, and skin cancers.
- Large cell. The cell is larger than are normal cells. An example is lung cancer affecting the bronchioles.
- Small cell. The cell is smaller than are normal cells. An example is small cell lung cancer, an aggressive cancer that usually spreads to other parts of your body (metastasizes).
- Squamous cell. The cell is flat in appearance. Examples include skin cancer or any other type of cancer that starts in the lining of some organs, such as a bronchus of a lung.
- Adenocarcinoma. The cell is gland-like in appearance. Examples include some lung, gastric and endometrial cancers.
Other factors that help classify a cancer include:
- Area of the body in which the cancer originated, such as the liver or breast. Cancers from certain organs may have a similar appearance. For example, the most common type of kidney cancer is classified as clear cell. On the other hand, breast cancer rarely has a clear cell appearance. So clear cells on a breast biopsy may indicate that the cancer didn't originate in the breast but spread there (metastasized) from another area of the body, such as a kidney.
- Type of tissue from which the cancer evolved, including carcinomas and sarcomas. Carcinoma is a cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs. Sarcoma is a cancer of the bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue.
Chemotherapy and sex: Is sexual activity OK during treatment?
- Dictionary of cancer terms. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/dictionary. Accessed Aug. 10, 2011.
- Moynihan TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Aug. 13, 2011.