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Dad small cell awaiting PET scan


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Hi all,

My dad's doctors found a large mass xraying his lung July 7th (he had been coughing for a few weeks, quit smoking 10 yrs ago). Today we now know from pulmonologist it's small cell (preliminary biopsy result). The tumor is 50 to 75 percent of his lung. PET scan scheduled for next week, oncologist hopefully soon after. My parents live in Rhode Island and I am in Tennessee. Trying to figure out air travel in a pandemic. I can't exactly fly back and forth all the time; my wife is a cancer survivor herself so we need to be cautious.  Should I fly up right now before he starts chemo to spend quality time? Wait until he starts chemo to be moral support? Should I spend 1 week or 2? Will he still be here at Christmas? Of course none of you can answer these questions, but maybe you can provide guidance about what we can expect over the next month or so. Also please be frank about the odds of him getting much sicker very quickly and not getting better. It seems pretty dire. Thanks in advance.

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Hi Laura,

Sorry to hear of your dad's diagnosis.  Mine is NSCLC (non small cell lung cancer), so obviously I'm not familiar with SCLC, but I'll just share my thoughts, hopefully I don't come across too blunt or callous.  That much of tumor in his lungs is worrisome.  If I were in your shoes, I'd go see him now.  I say this for several (mostly personal) reasons. 

1. the initial diagnosis and testing/scan phase were the worst for me, emotionally.  I could've used a shoulder to cry on.  Perhaps your dad could also use that shoulder or a hug right now. 

2. my limited understanding of SCLC is it's faster developing than NSCLC.   My friend's mom who was diagnosed stage 4 (NSCLC, she was a never smoker like myself) about a year ago was told she had 12-16 months.  She passed away 5 months later, a few days before last Christmas.  Being elderly aside (I think she was almost 80), she never was physically active, but of course I don't know if that attributed to her passing much sooner than anticipated.

3. There will be A LOT of info thrown at your dad.  He WILL need an advocate who can process the info, give him the cliff note version of the info and help him make decisions, even if he has the very best care in the world, rather than just following whatever doctors say.

Hopefully you find it a bit helpful.  If not, how about I just pray for you and your dad? 

Let us know if you have any other questions or need support.  We have lots of care givers on this forum with LOTS of care giving experiences.


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I'm so very sorry about your dad's diagnosis. Small cell lung cancer is much more aggressive than non-small cell. If it were me, I'd wouldn’t wait until the results of the PET scan are known. If he has a tumor filling 1/2 to 3/4 of one lung, then it is highly probable that he has other sites of metastasis. And if that is the case, it will be very hard to arrest his cancer with chemo/radiation.

If it were me, I'd drive to Rhode Island to spend time with him. No one can predict how much time one has but he likely doesn't have much more "quality" time available. So I'd go now and drive.  You can help him understand the PET results and implications. If he has many metastasis, you may decide to forego treatment to increase the amount of quality time he has left. The known small cell presence in your dad is already dire. I'd be there to support him with the PET scan results and help him make decisions for the future.

Stay the course.


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