Extrapulmonary Small Cell Carcinoma Clinical Presentation

Updated: Apr 16, 2015
  • Author: Irfan Maghfoor, MD; Chief Editor: Jules E Harris, MD, FACP, FRCPC  more...
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Extrapulmonary small cell carcinoma is an aggressive neoplasm that enlarges rapidly and disseminates early in the course of illness. Due to multiplicity of sites where it can arise, there are no symptoms or signs specifically attributable to extrapulmonary small cell carcinoma. Patients may present with constitutional symptoms of fatigue, weakness, fever, weight loss, and night sweats. They may also have symptoms referable to the organ of origin, for instance hematuria in cases of bladder tumor, abdominal pain with or without obstruction with small or large bowel involvement, or hoarseness with laryngeal involvement.



Physical findings are again limited by the organ system involved and may include prostatic enlargement, skin nodules in case of Merkel cell carcinoma, or enlargement of regional draining lymph nodes.

As with pulmonary small cell carcinoma, paraneoplastic syndromes have been described with extrapulmonary small cell carcinoma. Most common of these are hypercalcemia, syndrome of inappropriate secretion of antidiuretic hormone, and secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone, and patients may present with symptoms and signs of excess calcium, hyponatremia, or corticosteroid excess depending upon the severity and rate of development of endocrine abnormality.



Etiology of extrapulmonary small cell carcinoma is unknown. While some authors have reported an association with tobacco smoking, others have not found a strong causative correlation with tobacco.