Neurologic disorders in 432 consecutive patients with small cell lung carcinoma

Cancer. 2004 Feb 15;100(4):801-6. doi: 10.1002/cncr.20043.


Background: Neurologic complications are an important cause of morbidity and possibly also mortality in patients with small cell lung carcinoma (SCLC). The current study was undertaken to prospectively investigate survival and the frequency of neurologic disorders in patients with SCLC.

Methods: Between October 1980 and September 2001, 432 consecutive patients with microscopically proven SCLC were included in the current study. Patients underwent neurologic examinations on a regular basis prior to, during, and after treatment. Routine imaging of the brain (computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging) was performed before and after systemic therapy.

Results: A neurologic disorder was diagnosed in approximately 56% of the SCLC patients. In nearly half of the cases, the neurologic disorder already was present at the time of diagnosis. Brain metastases (BM) were diagnosed most frequently. Seventy-four patients (18%) had BM at the time of diagnosis; in 20 of these patients, the BM did not demonstrate clinical signs. Another 101 patients developed BM during follow-up. The 2-year cumulative risk of BM reached 49% for patients with limited disease (LD) and 65% for patients with extensive disease (ED). Patients with BM as the only site of disease dissemination were found to have a poorer survival compared with LD patients. The majority of the nonmetastatic disorders preceded the diagnosis of SCLC. The syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone secretion (SIADH) was diagnosed most frequently.

Conclusions: In this prospective study, neurologic disorders were diagnosed in greater than half of the patients with SCLC. BM were detected most frequently. Approximately 18% of the patients were found to have BM at the time of diagnosis. In approximately 33% of the cases, these BM did not cause symptoms. BM were found to have a negative effect on survival in patients with SCLC.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / complications*
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / secondary*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inappropriate ADH Syndrome / etiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Nervous System Diseases / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis