Effects of surgery on survival of elderly patients with stage I small-cell lung cancer: analysis of the SEER database

  • Yan Li
  • Song Hu
  • Jun Xie
  • Xian Zhang
  • Yun Zong
  • Bin Xu
  • Chong LiEmail author
Original Article – Clinical Oncology



Surgery improves survival of small-cell lung cancer (SCLC) patients in early stage. However, the role of surgery in the elderly stage I SCLC patients is not well established. We designed this retrospective study to explore the efficacy of surgery on survival of this subset population.

Patients and methods

Elderly patients aged ≥ 75 years with stage I SCLC diagnosed histologically from 1998 to 2013 were identified from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database. Included patients were divided into surgery group (received surgery, accompanied by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or both or neither), non-surgical group (only received radiotherapy, chemotherapy, or combination), and untreated group. Overall survival (OS) and lung cancer-specific survival (LCSS) were compared among the three groups by the Kaplan–Meier analysis. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to identify factors associated with survival.


A total of 983 patients were included. Among all of the patients, 24.0% patients received surgery, 46.6% patients received non-surgical treatment, and 29.4% patients received no treatment. The 5-year OS rates of surgery, non-surgical and untreated groups were 31%, 12% and 6%, respectively (P < 0.0001). In multivariable analysis, surgery was an important factor that improved OS when compared with non-surgical treatment (HR 0.554; 95% CI 0.458–0.670 [P < 0.0001]). In subgroup analysis, surgery remained an independent factor for OS among patients aged 75–79 years (HR 0.506; 95% CI 0.391–0.655 [P < 0.0001]) and 80–84 years (HR 0.544; 95% CI 0.388–0.763 [P < 0.0001]), while did not reach statistical significance when compared to non-surgical treatment for patients age ≥ 85 years (HR 0.914; 95% CI 0.507–1.650; [P = 0.766]).


Surgical resection significantly improved OS in stage I SCLC patients aged 75–84 years in our study, but further exploration in larger prospective clinical trials is needed.


Surgery Small-cell lung cancer Elderly SEER 



This work was supported by a Grant from the International Science and Technology Cooperation Project of the Changzhou Science and Technology Bureau (Number CZ20140016).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest related to this paper.

Ethical approval

No personal identifying information was used in the study. Hence, we did not require Institutional Review Board approval or patient informed consent.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Respiratory MedicineThe Third Affiliated Hospital of Soochow UniversityChangzhouChina
  2. 2.Laboratory of Cancer ResearchThe Third Affiliated Hospital of Soochow UniversityChangzhouChina

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