Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Adenocarcinoma is the name of a broad category of cancers.This type of canceroccurs in cells that line organs such as the colon, lung, and breast.

What is going on in the body?

Structures within the body are covered with layers of tissue.One of these layers of tissue is called the epithelium. It covers the insideof hollow organs and milk ducts in the breast. When cancer occurs in oneof the cells of the epithelium, it is called an adenocarcinoma. The canceris also categorized by the kind of tissue from which it arose, such asbreast or lung.

Cancer occurs when a cell undergoes changes that make itgrow and multiply uncontrollably. The abnormal cells grow into a mass, whichis called a tumor. Cancer cells from the tumor can break off andmetastasize.This means that they spread to other parts of the body. New tumors maythen form. In addition to spreading, adenocarcinoma also destroys the tissuearound it.

What are the causes and risks of the disease?

Smokingincreases the risk for almost every kind of cancer. There may be other riskfactors for adenocarcinomas in different organ sites. Each site may have differentfactors. For example, hormone replacement therapymay increase the risk of uterine adenocarcinoma. Colon adenocarcinomamay be related to a diet high in fator low in fiber.In the same way, the risk for adenocarcinoma of the small intestineincreases with a history of Crohn disease.

Symptoms & Signs

What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?

Symptoms vary, depending on which organ is affected by thetumor. Small adenocarcinomas can be hard to detect. The tumor must belarge enough to cause symptoms that prompt a person to see a doctor.Large tumors destroy tissue around them, which can cause symptoms.For example, a colon adenocarcinoma may erode into a blood vessel. In thiscase, the person might notice blood in the stool.

Diagnosis & Tests

How is the disease diagnosed?

Diagnosis of adenocarcinoma begins with a medical historyand physical exam. When a lump is found, a piece of it is taken in abiopsyand examined to see what it is. If adenocarcinoma is found, other tests maybe done to determine the extent of the disease. This process is calledstaging and usually includes specialized X-rays.

Prevention & Expectations

What can be done to prevent the disease?

Avoiding risk factors such assmokingis key to good health in general. There are no health behaviors that canprevent all cancers. But good health care can help to detect cancers early. Thisincludes:

  • Routine physical exams
  • breast self-examination
  • testicular self-examination
  • What are the long-term effects of the disease?

    If the cancer is not successfully treated, adenocarcinoma isfatal.

    What are the risks to others?

    Adenocarcinoma poses no risk to others.

    Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the disease?

    Adenocarcinoma is treated with one or more of the following:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation therapy
  • surgery
  • Early-stage disease is localized and may be treated bysurgery alone. The whole tumor and the tissue around it are removed.Sometimes chemotherapy is given after surgery to make sure that anycancer left behind is killed. This is called adjuvant therapy. The goal is toprevent the return of the cancer. Radiation may also be given to the area ofthe tumor to kill any disease left behind after surgery.

    If adenocarcinoma is in the advanced stage, treatment isfocused on improving the person’s quality of life. This is done by shrinkingtumors that are causing symptoms such as pain. Eitherradiation therapyor chemotherapymay be used. Advanced adenocarcinoma is not curable.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    Side effects depend on the type of treatment chosenand the intensity of the therapy. The side effects of therapy are usuallymanageable. Treatment for advanced-stage disease is designed to relievesymptoms, so side effects are minimized.

    What happens after treatment for the disease?

    People who have early-stage disease are followed to makesure the cancer does not return. People with advanced adenocarcinomaare followed to make sure that the disease is not progressing. If thedisease does return or progress, then a different treatment can be tried.

    How is the disease monitored?

    People who have been treated for adenocarcinoma shouldhave routine physical exams to look for signs of recurrence. The frequencyof these exams will decrease over time, if the disease has beensuccessfully treated. Close monitoring will allow for changes in therapyto maintain the best possible quality of life. Any new or worsening symptomsshould be reported to the doctor.

    Article type: xmedgeneral