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Small cell carcinoma of the cervix.

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  • Biology
  • Medicine


Small cell carcinoma of the cervix represents an uncommon variant of cervical cancer with a particularly poor prognosis. Traditionally, the diagnosis was established from routine histopathological sections, but there has been a trend to refer to this tumour as neuroendocrine carcinoma, with a requirement to demonstrate cytoplasmic granules. Five patients are described, who share the clinical features of young age of onset, early metastasis in the presence of apparently low stage disease, early failure of appropriate local treatment, and extreme chemosensitivity (features that are quite distinct from those seen in squamous cell cancer of the cervix). Light microscopy suggested a diagnosis of small cell cancer in all five tumours, but not all showed evidence of neuroendocrine differentiation. It is proposed that the present criteria for the diagnosis of cervical small cell carcinoma are too strict. The diagnosis should rely on the light microscopy of haemotoxylin and eosin sections and the distinctive clinical behaviour. The absence of neuroendocrine differentiation should not exclude the diagnosis, it does not appear to influence the clinical behaviour. The appropriate management of small cell carcinoma of the cervix is systemic, with chemotherapy as the first line of treatment. Surgery and radiotherapy may improve control of local disease but are unlikely significantly to influence the overall prognosis.

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