Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer. It develops in the glands that line your organs. Common forms of adenocarcinoma include breast, stomach, prostate, lung, pancreatic and colorectal cancers.
If you’ve been told that you have adenocarcinoma, it means that you have cancer in the glands that line your organs. This type of cancer can affect several different areas of your body, including the:
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Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of cancer affecting your organs. Adenocarcinoma is responsible for:
Adenocarcinoma develops in cells located in the glands that line your organs (glandular epithelial cells). These cells secrete mucous, digestive juices or other liquids. If your glandular cells begin to change or grow out of control, tumors can form. Some tumors found in glandular cells are not cancerous. These are called adenomas. However, some tumors that form in the glandular cells are cancerous. These are called adenocarcinomas.
Even though adenocarcinomas begin growing in the glands that line your organs, they can eventually spread to other parts of your body. This may include your brain, liver, lungs, lymph nodes, bone and bone marrow.
Carcinoma is the most common form of cancer. It starts in the epithelial tissue of your skin or internal organs. Adenocarcinoma is a subtype of carcinoma. It grows in the glands that line the insides of your organs.
There are a few factors that contribute to the development of this disease. The most common adenocarcinoma causes include:
Adenocarcinoma symptoms can vary depending on the area of your body that is affected.
Prostate cancer. Most of the time, men don’t have obvious symptoms early on. In the advanced stages, you may notice:
Colorectal (colon) cancer. You may not notice any symptoms if the tumor hasn’t grown big enough. Even though colorectal cancer typically causes bleeding in your stool (poop), the amount may be too small to see. Here are some other symptoms to watch for:
Pancreatic cancer. Most people who have pancreatic cancer don’t have symptoms until the late stages. The first warning sign is usually stomach pain and weight loss. Other symptoms include:
Yes. Adenocarcinoma can spread to other parts of your body. This occurs when cancer cells break away from a tumor and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream or lymph system. This is called invasive adenocarcinoma. Where cancer spreads depends on where the abnormal cells started. For example, pancreatic cancer often spreads to the liver first. Breast cancer often spreads to the lymph nodes first. Adenocarcinoma can also spread to the lungs, brain, bone, bone marrow and other organs.
Your healthcare provider will run some diagnostic tests. They will choose specific tests based on the location of the cancer. These may include:
You may notice the word “differentiation” on your pathology report. This refers to the grade of the cancer. In other words, it relates to how abnormal your cancer cells look under a microscope. Well-differentiated adenocarcinoma is considered low grade. This type of cancer tends to grow and spread slower. Poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma is considered high grade because it usually spreads faster.
The treatment recommended for you will depend on the location, size and type of tumor. It also depends on whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. There are three main treatments for adenocarcinoma:
Yes. Adenocarcinoma can be successfully treated in many cases. Survival rates vary depending on the type of cancer, its location and stage.
Side effects of adenocarcinoma treatment vary from person to person. Even those who undergo the same treatment can experience different side effects. Some of the most common include:
Be sure to tell your healthcare provider if you experience any side effects. They can help you find ways to ease your symptoms and make you more comfortable.
Going through cancer treatment can leave you feeling helpless and frustrated. One way to regain a sense of control is to practice self-care. Here are some suggestions:
If you want to exercise, be sure that you talk to your healthcare provider before incorporating anything new into your routine. This will ensure that you stay as healthy as possible during treatment.
There is no rulebook for how long cancer treatment takes. Some people are given chemotherapy for three months while others may need it for a year or longer. Your healthcare provider will discuss your treatment timeline with you in detail so you know what to expect.
Even though you can’t prevent cancer altogether, there are some things you can do to significantly lower your risk. Making healthy lifestyle choices is the best way to prevent adenocarcinoma and other types of cancer:
Adenocarcinoma prognosis varies depending on the type, location and size of the tumor. Cancers that are difficult to diagnose in the early stages are likely to be more fatal than cancers that are detectable early on.
Survival rates depend on the specific type of adenocarcinoma, its stage and location. Keep in mind that survival rates are estimates that are based on previous outcomes of other people. They can’t predict what will happen in your specific case, but they can give you a better understanding of treatment success.
A relative survival rate compares people with the same type and stage of cancer to the general population. It shows whether the disease shortens life. The five-year relative survival rate is a measure of how many people are still alive five years after receiving a diagnosis or after treatment begins. These percentages are based on research in the United States:
You should visit your healthcare provider if symptoms last longer than two weeks. If symptoms interfere with your daily life, schedule an appointment immediately.
Talking with your healthcare provider can help you understand your situation and make informed decisions. Here are some questions you can ask to learn more about your diagnosis:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you’ve been diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, you may feel shocked, saddened or frustrated. Learning everything you can about your diagnosis can prepare you for possible treatment options and empower you to take control of your healthcare.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/30/2021.
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