Small-cell lung carcinoma is an aggressive form of lung cancer that is strongly associated with cigarette smoking and has a tendency for early dissemination. Increasing evidence has implicated autocrine growth loops, proto-oncogenes, and tumour-suppressor genes in its development. At presentation, the vast majority of patients are symptomatic, and imaging typically reveals a hilar mass. Pathology, in most cases of samples obtained by bronchoscopic biopsy, should be undertaken by pathologists with pulmonary expertise, with the provision of additional tissue for immunohistochemical stains as needed. Staging should aim to identify any evidence of distant disease, by imaging of the chest, upper abdomen, head, and bones as appropriate. Limited-stage disease should be treated with etoposide and cisplatin and concurrent early chest irradiation. All patients who achieve complete remission should be considered for treatment with prophylactic cranial irradiation, owing to the high frequency of brain metastases in this disease. Extensive-stage disease should be managed by combination chemotherapy, with a regimen such as etoposide and cisplatin administered for four to six cycles. Thereafter, patients with progressive or recurrent disease should be treated with additional chemotherapy. For patients who survive long term, careful monitoring for development of a second primary tumour is necessary, with further investigation and treatment as appropriate.