Adenocarcinoma: Definition, Symptoms, Treatment, and More

Adenocarcinoma: Definition, Symptoms, Treatment, and More

Cancer is one of the many illnesses that people around the world dread. It usually brings a lot of pain and hardship to families. There are various classifications by which you can specify the type of cancer that exists.

But if you’ve known anyone with a type of cancer affecting their organs, you’ve probably heard of adenocarcinoma. In this article, we’ll go into detail on what this entails. By the end of the article, you should have a fairly comprehensive understanding of what happens here.

What Is Adenocarcinoma?

If someone tells you that you have adenocarcinoma, it means that cancer resides in the glands lining your organs. Particularly, you’ll find it in the glandular epithelial cells, which produce various forms of fluids. From there, it spreads.

You may find it in different organs including the lungs, breast, stomach, pancreas, prostate, esophagus, and colon. From there, they can spread to other parts of your body, including the brain, bone marrow, and lymph nodes.

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How Does Adenocarcinoma Occur?

To better understand how adenocarcinoma happens, you should first understand how important fluid is in your bodily functions. If your body is a well-oiled machine, the fluid your body produces is the oil itself. Various fluids are produced for different purposes. For example, gastric juices help break down your food into nutrients. Meanwhile, your lungs produce the pleural fluid that essentially keeps your lungs from sticking to themselves.

When your cells are functioning properly, everything should be well. But sometimes, it starts growing out of control. Because of the mutations in the DNA replication process that happen as a result, your body makes errors in cell reproduction and creates tumors. Some of these tumors are benign. These non-cancerous tumors are adenomas.

Meanwhile, the cancerous ones are adenocarcinomas. They infect the healthy tissues in your organ. And from there, they spread to other parts of your body.

Carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma Definitions: How Are They Different?

Carcinoma is the more general term that refers to all types of cancers that begin in all epithelial cells. And going back to the established meaning of adenocarcinoma, it specifically applies to those that start at the fluid-producing cells. This means that all adenocarcinoma is carcinoma, but not all carcinoma is adenocarcinoma. However, what happens with both is practically the same.

Different Types of Adenocarcinoma Cancers

Many organs in our body have glandular cells. Therefore, all of these are potential hosts of adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinoma can manifest as:

  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Stomach cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer

What Are the Symptoms of Adenocarcinoma Cancer?

Because of the nature of adenocarcinoma, the symptoms can vary greatly. It would mostly depend on the organ affected, but you’ll find certain symptoms like fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss across various types. Below, we also listed symptoms particular to each common type:

Lung Cancer

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Bloody sputum
  • Persistent cough
  • Hoarseness
  • Wheezing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weakness
  • Recurring lung infections

Breast Cancer

  • Breast pain
  • Nipple discharge
  • Breast lump
  • Armpit lump
  • Breast skin dimpling
  • Thickening of the breast
  • Breast swelling
  • Breast skin irritation
  • Red or flaky skin around the nipple
  • Changes in shape and/or size of at least one of the breasts

Colorectal Cancer

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Rectal bleeding
  • Bloody stool
  • Narrowed stool
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Continuing urge to have a bowel movement

Prostate Cancer

  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Urine blood
  • Weak urine flow
  • Prostate enlargement
  • Prostate pain, especially when sitting down
  • Frequent urination, most particularly in the evening
  • Pain or burning sensation during urination
  • Difficulty in completely emptying the bladder during urination

Esophageal Cancer

  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Coughing
  • Hoarseness of voice
  • Choking while swallowing
  • Pain in the throat or behind the breastbone
  • Pressure or burning sensation in the chest area
  • Swallowing difficulty that may be accompanied by pain, particularly with certain types of food

Stomach Cancer

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Jaundice
  • Diminishing appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Heartburn
  • Indigestion
  • Blood in stool
  • Anemia
  • Feeling of fullness despite minimal food intake
  • Increased bloating or fluid retention in the abdominal area

Pancreatic Cancer

  • Abdominal pain
  • Itchiness
  • Jaundice
  • Blood clots
  • Dark or brown urination
  • Back pain
  • Diminished appetite
  • Enlarged gallbladder or liver
  • Light-colored or gray, greasy stools
  • Diabetes (in rare cases)

If you experience any of these symptoms, there’s a chance that you have adenocarcinoma. We strongly advise going to your doctor so they can rule out other possibilities and give you a diagnosis.

Please note that for some types of cancer, you may not even experience any symptoms until it’s progressed. Doing your regular checkup will help your doctor detect any anomalies early on.

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How Is Adenocarcinoma Diagnosed?

Because adenocarcinoma can affect different organs, the way it will be diagnosed will depend on your symptoms. There are particular tests that would be appropriate for various types of cancer. For example, the doctor may order a colonoscopy to diagnose colorectal cancer or a mammogram for breast cancer.

As part of the diagnostic process, these tests may be ordered too:

  • Blood Tests. These can help detect various chemicals associated with different types of adenocarcinoma.
  • CT Scan. Also known as the computed tomography scan, it creates detailed, 3-D x-rays of the potentially cancerous tissue in your body. This may be used as part of monitoring your treatment as well.
  • Biopsy. This involves removing a part of the suspected tissue and placing it under a microscope for assessment. Doing so can detect the presence of cancer and whether or not it originated from a certain organ.
  • MRI. Radiofrequency waves are used for magnetic resonance imaging to make cross-sections of your entire body.
Only medical specialists may be able to read and interpret the results of these examinations. Their reading of these tests, your medical history, and other relevant information would all be taken into account in forming a diagnosis.

Metastasis of Adenocarcinoma

In some cases of adenocarcinoma, it would only reside in the original organ where it was first detected. Short of not having cancer at all, this is the most favorable case as targeting the cancerous cells would be easier.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the case all the time. Some of the cancer cells can break away from the original organ and travel to the other ones through the lymph system or the bloodstream. Once that happens, it’s already considered invasive adenocarcinoma.

Usually, the organs are nearest to the one initially affected. For example, breast cancer would usually spread to the lymph nodes first. Meanwhile, pancreatic cancer would get to the liver. This happens in the more advanced stages of the disease.

But metastasis doesn’t just happen from the original organ. From the affected organ, the process can repeat with the cancer cells spreading somewhere else.

Adenocarcinoma Prognosis

The good news is the overall survival rate of adenocarcinoma looks good. For localized adenocarcinoma, the survival rate is as high as 85%. There are no specific numbers for adenocarcinoma as a subtype. But if you want to be more familiar with the odds, look into the specific type of cancer.

Just like with any type of cancer, the odds of survival go down depending on how far it has spread already. The severity can also decrease the odds. But ultimately, only a trained medical professional can give a relatively accurate prognosis based on your test results.

What you can do right now is manage the odds to turn in your favor. We’ll discuss this in greater detail in the next section. Another thing that would help is detecting the disease before it spreads. Early detection gives you more comprehensive (and perhaps even more effective) treatment options that can improve your prognosis.

How Can You Minimize Your Risk for Adenocarcinoma?

Both your genes and the environment determine your risk of contracting adenocarcinoma. But while there’s not much that can be done as far as the hereditary components are concerned, you have some control over environmental factors. These lifestyle changes can help reduce your risk of getting adenocarcinoma:

  • Avoid tobacco and alcohol use
  • Protect yourself from environmental pollutants like smog
  • Keep your body at a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Choose healthy and non-processed food selections
  • Avoid taking extremely hot liquids
  • Improve your fiber intake
If you’ve had adenocarcinoma before, the chances that you’ll get it again are higher. In this case, we hope you take risk-minimization strategies even more seriously.

What Are Your Treatment Options for Adenocarcinoma?

Like with the symptoms and the diagnostic procedures, the treatment plan will depend on certain factors like where cancerous cells were detected and how severe the situation is. To help your body completely get rid of adenocarcinoma, your doctor may recommend one or a combination of these treatments:


Your first line of defense in your fight against adenocarcinoma is surgery. This is very important because it will help prevent the cancer cells from getting worse and spreading to other parts of the body.

Surgery involves removing the area with the cancerous cells as well as some of the healthy tissues. Whenever possible, your doctors will choose the least invasive option to improve your healing time and reduce the odds of infection.


With chemotherapy, you’re taking drugs designed to get rid of cancer cells. These drugs are usually introduced through your veins, but pill forms exist as well.

The drugs target fast-growing cells, which are the main characteristic of cancer cells. But because your hair, skin, small intestines, and bone marrow also grow quickly, these may be affected as well.

Radiation Therapy

By undergoing radiation therapy, you’re damaging the DNA of cancerous cells. And when the DNA of a cell gets too damaged, it dies. But since this doesn’t work instantly, it’s usually paired with other treatments.

There are many techniques for doing radiation therapy. For the more advanced ones, experts use imaging techniques to target cancer cells and spare the healthy ones.


Immunotherapy takes on a different approach to treatment. Instead of getting rid of cancer cells, you’re improving the immune system’s response to abnormal cells.

This is done by increasing the production of cancer-fighting cells in your body and helping the immune system identify cancer cells. If effective, your immune system will now attack the cancer cells.

One of the objectives of this journey is to help the patient face the treatment difficulties and potential lifestyle changes with dignity. That’s why pain management is also a huge part of treatment. Apart from working to make your body cancer-free, your doctors may recommend pain relief options like opioid therapy, over-the-counter medications, and even psychological counseling.

Taking Care of Yourself While Undergoing Treatment

The patient’s outlook can be extremely helpful. The extremely loaded medical term adenocarcinoma may feel like a sentence, but never give up hope. Willingness to participate in treatment options and to follow expert advice is necessary in getting the best results from treatment.

Get a lot of rest. Find relaxing activities. Get into meditation. Participate in activities you enjoy. All these can help a patient feel that their life doesn’t just revolve around treatment. But before incorporating anything into the routine, get the green light from your healthcare provider first.

Do You or a Loved One Need Extensive Care Due to Adenocarcinoma? Live a Better Life With All American Hospice

Even though the survival rates for adenocarcinoma are great, people unfortunately still lose the battle for survival. Some patients may need more assistance than others, especially those who are in the later stages of cancer. Having the right support can aid in improving the quality of life of patients. Please know that you don’t have to go through this fight on your own.

With All American Hospice, our goal is to make you feel as comfortable and peaceful as possible. You will have a team of professionals that will provide the care and support needed to better manage the pains and symptoms that come with adenocarcinoma, delivered either through our facilities or in your home.

Terminal illnesses can bring up a lot of emotions in both the patient and their loved ones. You don’t have to endure everything on your own.

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