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Small cell carcinoma

Reviewer: Adriana Handra-Luca, M.D. (see Reviewers page)
Revised: 3 February 2013, last major update October 2012
Copyright: (c) 2003-2013, PathologyOutlines.com, Inc.


● Histology similar to bronchial tumor
● 6% of primary tracheal tumors in 1993 study (Thorax 1993;48:688)

Clinical features

● Endotracheal nodule or eccentric wall thickening, papillomatous at endoscopy
● May be tracheobronchic
● May occur with hypophosphatemia osteomalacia and Cushing syndrome
● May occur secondary to breast ductal carcinoma with radiation, or be metastatic from lung primary
● May metastasize to CNS

Case reports

● 25 year old woman with central airway obstruction and dyspnea (Br J Radiol 2008;81:e120)
● 27 year old man (Rev Pneumol Clin 1994;50:172)
● 42 year old woman with multiple papillomatous-like tumors involving trachea and bronchi. (Chest 1983;83:817)
● 58 year old woman with ankle swelling, dysphagia, widespread bone and joint pains and hypophosphataemia (J Clin Pathol 1994;47:80)
● 60 year old man with dyspnea on exertion and faint stridor (Thorax 1980;35:72)
● Ultrastructural evidence of endocrine differentiation (Arch Pathol Lab Med 1984;108:149)


● Radio-chemotherapy (Presse Med 1992;21:1905)

Micro description

● Classic features of large neuroendocrine cells with high N/C ratio, hyperchromatic nuclei, crush artifact, nuclear molding
● May show combined morphology with squamous cell carcinoma and giant cell carcinoma

Micro images

Small clusters and rosettes of small tumour cells

Adjacent islands of oat cell and squamous cell carcinoma surrounded by stroma containing bizarre giant cells (Haematoxylin and eosin X500)

Esophagus: small cell carcinoma, oat cell type

Positive stains

● Keratin; also bombesin and CEA

Differential diagnosis

● Extension from bronchial tumor

End of Trachea > Tumors > Small cell carcinoma

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