Adenocarcinoma Overview:

Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer which can affect one or multiple organs in the body like the pancreas, breast, colon, lungs etc. The survival rate and treatment vary among individual cases.

Adenocarcinoma Definition:

Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer which gets developed in the glands. Those glands are inside the different organs, which is why adenocarcinoma can be in the lungs, prostate, colon, pancreas, breast or lungs. The treatment is different as per the size of a tumour. There are some treatments like chemotherapy, targeted therapy, radiations etc. but they are advised as per the individual’s health, medical history and the time since when a tumour started growing.

The glands in the human body are responsible for making some fluids. Those fluids are required by the body to stay hydrated and work properly. When the cells in those glands do not act in a way they should and go out of control, it causes adenocarcinoma. The chances of those cells spreading to the other parts are also there which increases the possibility of other healthy tissues being affected.

Adenocarcinoma is a very common type of colon cancer. Colon is the large intestine whose function is to extract the nutrients and water from the food which is consumed. Adenocarcinoma starts with a small growth or it could be just a polyp but can later turn into cancer.

This disease can also start in the rectum. The rectum is also a part of the large intestine from where the stool gets out of the body. If adenocarcinoma is caused in the breast, it means that it affects those glands which produce milk. It could also occur inside the mucous glands located in the lower part of the oesophagus (the tube which carries the food from mouth to stomach) or in the lungs as well. In fact, 40% of lung cancers are adenocarcinoma. It affects the outer part of the lungs where the growth is slower as compared to other types of lung cancers. Those who smoke are extremely prone to adenocarcinoma of the lungs.

The pancreas is responsible for making the enzymes which aid in the digestion of the food. They also generate hormones. More than 80% of pancreatic cancer is adenocarcinoma and it forms in the ducts of the pancreas.

In case of adenocarcinoma in the prostate, the cells which generate the fluids to protect the sperm cells get affected. Most of the prostate cancers are of type adenocarcinoma.

The presence of adenocarcinoma is expressed in terms of stages to denote how serious it is. Mostly, doctors use stages 0-4 in which stage 0 means that the cancerous cells are present, but they haven’t spread in the body yet and stage 4 means they have spread to the other parts of the body. The survival rate is dependent on the stage combined with which organ is affected.

Adenocarcinoma Symptoms:

The symptoms of adenocarcinoma could be different, depending upon the organ which gets affected. There is no one single test or a specific symptom which can confirm that it’s adenocarcinoma. The symptoms below could be a sign of adenocarcinoma, divided as per the body part:

1.    Brain: Vomiting, nausea, headache, blurry vision, different sensations in the arms or legs, changes in the thinking process or changes in the personality.

2.    Lungs: Weakness, weight loss, coughing, blood in mucus.

3.    Breast: Formation of a lump or abnormal growth.

4.    Prostate: Pain during urination or ejaculation, difficulty in controlling the bladder, frequent urination during the night or presence of blood in the semen.

5.    Pancreas: Unexplained weight loss, pain in the back or stomach, itchy skin.

6.    Colon: Feeling of a full bowel, weight loss, rectal bleeding, blood in the stool or pain in the stomach.

Causes of Adenocarcinoma:

Though there are certain risk factors which could be responsible for adenocarcinoma, there are no formally established and specific causes for it. The risk factors could be:

1.    Age

2.    History of having polyps.

3.    Smoking: causes adenocarcinoma in lungs

4.    Alcohol intake.

5.    Diabetes

6.    Medical history/genetics.

How is it diagnosed?

If anyone notices the symptoms of adenocarcinoma, they should visit the doctor. In the initial stages, it might not seem to be a problem, but early detection is important for the treatment. Most of the times, the first step a doctor take is to conduct a physical examination. This will help in finding if there is a presence of any growth or swelling. Other ways of diagnosing are:

1.    Screening tests like a colonoscopy: It is meant to test for the polyps in the colon.

2.    Blood tests: Blood tests reveals the signs of adenocarcinoma. It could also depict anaemia which might be caused by a tumour. The blood test can also depict any abnormality in the enzyme production which could mean that it is cancer.

3.    Imaging tests: These tests are most common to diagnose adenocarcinoma. With the help of these tests, the doctors can tell if the organs look abnormal. Example of such tests includes CT scans, MRI etc. In a CT scan, the X-rays provide a very detailed image of the organ which is done by radio waves in case of an MRI. These tests are commonly used in case of adenocarcinoma because they not only help in diagnosing but also helps in keeping track of the progress in case a treatment is going on.

4.    Biopsy: Biopsy is done by taking a small tissue sample from the organ which is suspected to have adenocarcinoma. Doctors can take out a polyp or growth to examine it. With the help of a biopsy, it is possible to find out whether the cancerous cells are present only in one organ or they have spread to other parts of the body as well. It also helps in deducing how much the cancer cells have grown.


There is no specific way by which one can prevent adenocarcinoma. Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help and this is what a person can do to reduce the risk. Following steps will help in reducing the risk:

1.    Avoid smoking. Those who have never tried smoking- they should stay away and not even try starting it. Smoking is a major risk factor. Those who are already into smoking- they should leave it as soon as possible and start with switching to alternatives first and then leave it altogether. Second-hand smoke should also be avoided. Passive smoking is very harmful as well. If there is some person near you who smokes, you should encourage them not to do that. It is always better to avoid being in the smoke areas.

2.    Avoiding the exposure to radon will also help.

3.    Exposure to carcinogens should also be avoided. They are harmful chemicals which affect the lungs. If they are to be used, then wearing a face mask is very important. Doctor’s consultation will help to know how to reduce the risk of cancer if the person is exposed to carcinogens at work.

4.    Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is imperative and eating fruits and vegetables is its main component. Everyone should consume foods which are rich in vitamins and nutrients. The supplements are not as useful as the real foods are. Try to make fruits and vegetables as part of the daily diet. The fruits should be changed in the routine so that all varieties can be consumed.

5.    Doing some physical work or any form of exercise is a must. If the person is not used to of physical exercises, then it can prove to be harmful to the health in many ways. To get started, exercising for a few minutes every day and then gradually increasing the time is a useful approach.

Treatment of Adenocarcinoma:

The treatment of adenocarcinoma depends on its type, stage and growth. Following are the treatments which the doctors generally advise to the patients:

1.    Surgery: The first thing doctors might do is to remove a tumour altogether. The tissues near a tumour are also removed. After the surgery, the tissues inside the body might be examined to make sure that the cancer cells are not there anymore. There are chances that those cells will still be in the body and in that case, other treatments will also be given. It is to be noted that the surgery is not the same for all types of organs. Removing the lump from the breast is relatively safer (through lumpectomy) than removing from the brain.

2.    Chemotherapy: The drugs given under chemotherapy can kill the cells of adenocarcinoma or reduce the speed of growth. If the doctors are able to kill the cells, then this disease can be cured. The problem with chemotherapy is that it also kills the healthy cells. Those who are taking the chemotherapy sessions also face other problems like hair loss and weakness because the healthy cells also get affected.

3.    Radiation: High energy waves are used to kill the cancer cells in radiation therapy. Here as well, the chances of healthy cells getting killed are there.

4.    Immunotherapy: Under immunotherapy, those medicines are used which support the immune system of the body. Such kinds of drugs might increase the lifespan, but they do not cure cancer. They also have some side-effects.

5.    Targeted therapy: There are certain drugs available these days, which only target the cancerous cells. They cause less damage as compared to chemotherapy. The use of these drugs is prescribed as per the affected organ, or as per the patient’s health status.


The complications of adenocarcinoma differ as per the organ which is affected. For lung cancer, the following are the complications:

1.    Shortness of breath: The cancer growth can block the airway which causes shortness of breath. Cancer cells can also cause a fluid to gather around the lungs which also causes shortness of breath.

2.    Blood in mucus: The cancer cells cause bleeding, which gets reflected in the mucus.

3.    Pleural effusion: It is the condition when the fluid gets accumulated in the pleural space. This prevents the lungs from expanding properly while the person inhales.

4.    Pains.

5.    Chances of cancer cells spreading to other parts of the body.

Following are the complications related to the colon cancer:

1.    Bowel obstruction.

2.    Returning cancer cells.

3.    It can cause primary colorectal cancer.

There are certain general complications of adenocarcinoma like nausea, headache and weakness in the body and a possibility of cancer spreading in various parts of the body is always there.

Myths :

Following are the myths related to adenocarcinoma:

Myth #1 :    It is contagious: This disease is not contagious and does not spread from one person to the other. It can spread within the body of the same person but will not get transferred to the other person. It is only possible only in case of tissue or organ transplant.

Myth #2 :    Exposure to the air causes cancer to get worse: People often believe that exposure to air will increase the growth of a tumour. It does not happen.

Myth #3: Mobile phones and power lines can cause cancer: To date, there is no scientifically proven evidence that exposure to mobile phones and power lines causes this disease. The energy emitted by them is generally low-frequency and does not modify the genes, as per the studies which are done so far.

Myth #4: Some people think that they can never get cancer because it is not there in the family. This is not the case, anyone can get cancer. It is caused by environmental factors, exposure to harmful substances or radiations and genetic changes that naturally happen as the age of the person increases. Lifestyle habits also play a role in this.

Myth #5: Products like antiperspirants, deodorants and hair dyes cause adenocarcinoma: There is no scientific evidence which could prove that this is true. It is not proven that the chemicals in these products cause cancer. However, some studies have suggested that hairdressers who are exposed to enormous quantities of hair dye or chemicals can have increased risk of getting cancer in the bladder, but these products are not direct causes of cancer as of now.

Last updated on : 14-09-2018

Disclaimer : Docprime doesn’t endorse or take any guarantee of the accuracy or completeness of information provided under this article and these are the views strictly of the writer. Docprime shall not be held responsible for any aspect of healthcare services administered with the information provided on this article.

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