Is Adenocarcinoma an Aggressive Cancer?

What is adenocarcinoma?

Adenocarcinoma happens when cells in the glands that line organs grow out of control. They may spread to other places and harm healthy organs.

Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that starts in the glands that line the organs.  Glands secrete substances like saliva, stomach acid, or hormones that help the body function.

What can cause adenocarcinoma?

Though the exact cause of adenocarcinoma is not fully understood, researchers have identified a variety of risk factors that are associated with this type of cancer:

Smoking is the most common risk factor associated with all types of cancers. It is important to note that these risk factors will not necessarily lead to lung cancer. Similarly, an individual may develop lung cancer without having any of these risk factors.

Is adenocarcinoma an aggressive cancer?

Adenocarcinoma happens when cells in the glands that line organs grow out of control. They may spread to other places and harm healthy organs.  Adenocarcinoma in different organs manifests differently. 

Adenocarcinoma can start in:

  • Colon and rectum
    • Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of colon cancer
    • It starts out as a small bump, or growth, that can turn into cancer. 
    • The disease can also start in your anal region and then migrate to the large intestine.
  • Breasts
    • Most breast cancers are adenocarcinomas. 
    • They start in the glands of the breast where milk is produced.
  • Esophagus
    • Adenocarcinoma usually starts in glands that line the lower part of your esophagus (food pipe).
  • Lungs
    • Adenocarcinoma makes up about 40% of lung cancers. 
    • It's most often found in the outer part of the lungs and grows more slowly than other types of lung cancer. 
  • Pancreas
    • This is an organ in the abdomen that secretes hormones and chemicals which help in food digestion.
    • About 85% of pancreatic cancers are adenocarcinoma. 
  • Prostate
    • This is a gland in men situated below the urine bladder. 
    • Prostate gland cancers are mostly adenocarcinomas.


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How is adenocarcinoma diagnosed?

Initially, an individual does not experience any symptoms. Adenocarcinoma is usually diagnosed in late stages, and it already spreads by the time symptoms are obvious. Symptoms may include pain, weight loss swelling, diarrhea, bleeding and weakness.  Below are few common tests to confirm adenocarcinoma:

  • Colonoscopy checks intestines for masses which might be adenocarcinomas (polyps). 
  • Blood tests check for anemia (blood loss) as it is an important indication for possible cancer. 
  • Imaging tests (CT, MRI) are helpful to see if any of the tissues in organs appear abnormal. Imaging tests also help the doctor monitor a  cancer treatment’s effectiveness.

How is adenocarcinoma treated?

Treatment of adenocarcinoma depends on the anatomical site and its manifestations. Below are treatment options for adenocarcinoma.

  • Surgery: The primary treatment after diagnosis is usually to remove the tumor and the tissue around it. Usually, the tissue is sent to pathology lab to determine the aggressiveness of the cancer. Depending on the pathology result, an individual might need to combine other treatments with surgery. 
  • ChemotherapyDrugs used in chemotherapy can kill adenocarcinoma cells, slow their growth, or even cure the disease.
  • Radiation: Generally, high-energy X-rays or other types of rays are exposed to the cancerous site to kill the cancer cells.

Cancer treatment can have side effects which include vomiting and weakness; doctors usually treat these side effects with medications.

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