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Ann Oncol. 1998 May;9(5):543-7.

Improvement and plateau in survival of small-cell lung cancer since 1975: a population-based study.

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Eindhoven Cancer Registry, Comprehensive Cancer Centre South, The Netherlands.



Cytotoxic therapy appears to have improved short-term survival for patients with small-cell lung cancer, but little is known about the results for unselected patients and trends in long-term survival.


One thousand seven hundred ninety-six patients with small-cell lung cancer diagnosed between 1975 and 1994 in southeastern Netherlands. We studied treatment policy for and survival of unselected patients since 1975, when cytotoxic therapy emerged.


The proportion patients receiving chemotherapy, with or without irradiation, almost tripled from 30% to 82% for patients younger than 70 years of age and from 15% to 56% for those over 70, whereas the proportion receiving only radiotherapy decreased from 36% to 5% in both age groups. The short-term (< 2 year) survival rate improved markedly between 1975 and 1989, especially for patients younger than 70 (median survival increased from five to 10 months). Two-year survival remained poor (8%). Two percent of all patients younger than 70 years at diagnosis survived for at least eight years, but these patients still represent an excess five-year mortality of 39%.


In southeastern Netherlands short-term survival of patients with small-cell lung cancer improved markedly up to the end of the 1980s, but a major impact on cure rates has not been achieved.

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