Adenocarcinoma- Cancer/Oncology

Adenocarcinomas are cancers that arise from the mucous-secreting glands that line your internal organs. These kinds of cancer can affect various body parts, including the lungs, pancreas, breast, esophagus, prostate, stomach, and large intestine. These organs have glands, and adenocarcinoma can occur in any of these organs.

Almost all prostate malignancies and breast cancers, in general, are adenocarcinomas. These tumors comprise 96% of colorectal cancer cases and 95% of pancreatic cancer cases.

Adenocarcinoma can affect different organs of the body. Let us shortly review the different types of Adenocarcinoma depending on the organ it affects:

How Does Adenocarcinoma Affect The Body?

Adenocarcinomas arise in the cells that line your internal organs, which are known as glandular epithelial cells, and secrete digestive juices, mucus, or other liquids. A tumor might develop if your glandular cells change or grow out of control.

Not all glandular cells become malignant or cancerous. Some growths are benign and are known as adenomas. However, these may become cancerous with time.

Adenocarcinomas initially develop in the glands that line your organs, but they can potentially migrate to other regions of your body. This happens when cancer cells separate from a tumor and spread throughout your body through your circulation or lymphatic system. The condition is called metastatic adenocarcinoma.

The spread of cancer is determined by where the aberrant cells first appeared. For instance, an adenocarcinoma of the pancreas frequently spreads to the liver first. Likewise, lymph nodes are often the first site of the dissemination of breast cancer. Adenocarcinoma can also potentially spread (metastasize) to other organs such as the brain, lungs, bone, and bone marrow.

Why Does Adenocarcinoma Develop?

The development of adenocarcinoma is influenced by a variety of factors. However, the following are the most typical causes:

  • Smoking: Adenocarcinoma and other cancers are primarily caused by tobacco usage.
  • Exposure to toxins: Adenocarcinoma can also be brought on by harmful pollutants in your house or place of work.
  • Prior radiation treatment. You run an increased risk of getting adenocarcinoma if you have already received radiation therapy.

Symptoms Of Adenocarcinoma

The symptoms of adenocarcinoma vary depending on the organ it has spread to. Unless cancer has progressed, there are usually no symptoms or vague symptoms. Here are some of the specific symptoms of adenocarcinoma, based on the organ involved.

Adenocarcinoma of lungs

Typically, a persistent cough that produces blood-tinged sputum is the initial sign. However, when symptoms begin to manifest, lung cancer is generally far along and has spread to other body parts.

Other symptoms of lung cancer include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Hoarseness
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

Breast adenocarcinoma

Screening mammography frequently detects breast cancer in its early stages, even before symptoms appear. Sometimes it manifests as a new lump in the breast or armpit discovered by chance or during a self-exam. Although not always, the lump from breast cancer is typically firm and painless.

Additional breast cancer signs and symptoms include:

  • Alteration in breast size and shape
  • Breast swelling
  • Dimpling or puckering of the skin on the breast
  • Nipple discharge that is bloody, exclusively from one breast, or has an acute onset. Nipple retraction (the nipple is pushed inside rather than sticking out)
  • Red or scaly skin or nipple

Duodenal adenocarcinoma

Duodenal adenocarcinoma is an aggressive and rare cancer that begins in the small intestine.

Some symptoms are:

  • Anemia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Dark-colored stools
  • Jaundice

Pancreatic adenocarcinoma

Cancer of the pancreas typically does not show any signs until it is very advanced. The initial symptoms are typically abdominal pain and weight loss. Early signs can also include clay-colored stools, itching, and yellowing of the skin and eyes.

These are some more symptoms of pancreatic cancer, such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Heartburn
  • Feeling bloated
  • Back pain
  • Signs of excess fat in the stool (it smells terrible and floats)
  • Nausea and vomiting

Adenocarcinoma of the colon and rectum

If cancer has not spread far enough and is detected early on during a screening test, there may not be any symptoms. Bleeding from colorectal tumors results in blood in the stool, albeit the amount may be too tiny to notice.

There might eventually be enough for it to be seen, or there might be so much loss that the patient could develop anemia. The blood may be maroon or bright red in color.

Additional symptoms of colorectal cancer include:

  • Abdominal cramps or pain
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or other issues with the bowel
  • Gas, bloating, or a constant sense of being full
  • Stools that are thinner or narrower
  • Unexplained and significant weight loss

Diagnosing Adenocarcinoma

Your doctor will consider your medical history and conduct a physical examination to help decide which tests to order. Depending on the location, different tests are used to detect cancer. However, three common ones are as follows:

1. Biopsy

An abnormal mass is sampled by a medical professional, who then examines it under a microscope to see if it is malignant. They also determine whether it originated there or is metastasis.

2. CT scan

This scan provides a 3-D representation of the area of the body that is abnormal, which may indicate an adenocarcinoma.

3. MRI

With the help of this diagnostic procedure, doctors can spot lumps or abnormal tissue and get clear images of the body's organs.

Typically, a biopsy is used by doctors to confirm a cancer diagnosis. Blood tests could help monitor treatment progress and look for metastases, but they might not be as helpful for diagnosis.

In addition, laparoscopy may be utilized to confirm a diagnosis. During this procedure, a tiny, illuminated scope and camera are used to see inside your body.

Following are various screening examinations and tests that can be used to identify cancer in specific body organs and parts:

Breast cancer

  • Ultrasound and magnified views on a mammogram: Images from these scans help describe a mass more thoroughly and pinpoint its precise position.
  • Screening mammograms: Cancer may be detected using breast X-rays.

Lung cancer

  • Bronchoscopy: A medical expert inserts a scope through your mouth into your lungs to check or assess a mass and take a tissue sample for biopsy.
  • Cytology: A medical professional uses a microscope to look for cancer cells in your phlegm or the fluid surrounding your lung.
  • Mediastinoscopy: A healthcare professional performs a lymph node biopsy in the region between your lungs by inserting a scope through the skin and checking for localized cancer spread there.
  • Thoracentesis (pleural tap): The fluid collecting around your lung is removed by a medical professional using a needle and is checked for cancer cells.

Colorectal cancer

  • Colonoscopy. A medical professional inserts a scope into your colon to examine a tumor, check for cancer, or perform a biopsy.

Prostate cancer

  • Transrectal ultrasound: A scope is inserted into the rectum by a healthcare provider to take a prostate biopsy.
  • PSA or prostate-specific antigen test: This test can catch high levels of PSA in the blood, which may be linked to prostate cancer. It can serve as a screening test or monitor the efficacy of treatment.

Pancreatic cancer

  • Endoscopic ultrasound: A medical professional inserts a scope through your mouth into your stomach to do a biopsy or an ultrasound examination of your pancreas.
  • ERCP: Your doctor will insert a scope through your mouth, move it through your stomach, and then through a portion of your small intestine to examine or biopsy your pancreas.
  • Paracentesis: A healthcare provider performs a paracentesis to remove a fluid buildup from your abdomen and analyze the cells inside.

How Is Adenocarcinoma Treated?

The type of tumor, its size and features, and the presence of metastases or lymph node involvement all influence the appropriate course of treatment. Radiation and surgery are frequently used to treat cancer restricted to a single body part. However, chemotherapy is more likely to be used as part of the treatment when cancer has spread.

Adenocarcinoma can be treated in three ways:


Surgery is frequently used as the initial form of adenocarcinoma treatment to remove the tumor and some surrounding tissue.


During chemotherapy, drugs are used to kill cancer cells. Chemotherapy might be applied to a single location or the entire body.

Radiation therapy

Radiation therapy, which frequently accompanies chemotherapy or surgery, employs imaging to target adenocarcinoma tumors while sparing healthy tissues.

There is no set timeframe for cancer treatment. For example, chemotherapy is given to some patients for three months, but it may be required for a year or longer in others. Therefore, your healthcare professional will review the specifics of your treatment schedule so that you know what to anticipate.

What Are The Side Effects Of Treatment?

Treatment for adenocarcinoma can have different side effects for different people. In addition, varying side effects can occur in patients even when they get the same treatment. Some of the most common side effects are as follows:

  • Diarrhea
  • Anemia
  • Constipation
  • Bruising
  • Excessive fluid build-up resulting in swelling
  • Discomfort or pain
  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Insomnia
  • Delirium
  • Tiredness
  • Decrease in appetite

Report any side effects to your doctor immediately. They can help you find ways to feel comfortable and relieve symptoms.

What Is The Outlook?

The prognosis depends on several factors, such as the stage of cancer, the presence of metastases, and general health. Therefore, only estimates based on expected outcomes are used in survival statistics. Remember that an individual's outcome could vary from the norm, particularly with early-stage disease.

The percentage of survivors still living five years after diagnosis is the 5-year survival rate for a particular malignancy. According to The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) reports that for adenocarcinoma, the 5-year survival rates are:

  • Colorectal cancer: 65 percent
  • Breast cancer: 90 percent
  • Prostate cancer: almost 100 percent
  • Esophageal cancer: 19 percent
  • Pancreatic cancer: 8 percent
  • Lung cancer: 18 percent


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