Adenocarcinoma: Does It Spread Very Fast?

Adenocarcinoma: Does It Spread Very Fast?

If your doctor tells you that you have adenocarcinoma, it means you have a type of cancer that starts in the glands that line the inside of one of your organs. Sometimes it’s called the “cancer of the cavities.”

Adenocarcinoma can happen in many places, like your colon, breasts, stomach, esophagus (food pipe), lungs, pancreas, or prostate. 

Adenocarcinoma is very common for some kinds of cancers. For instance, 99% of prostate cancers, 85% of pancreatic cancers, and 40% of lung cancers are adenocaricnomas. 

It’s natural to feel worried when you find out you have cancer, but remember that treatments can slow or stop the disease. You might need chemotherapy, radiation, targeted therapy, or surgery. You and your doctor will decide on the best approach, based on where your tumors are growing and how long you’ve had them.

Adenocarcinoma vs. carcinoma

Cancers are classified either by the type of tissues where the cancer comes from or by the part of the body where the cancer first shows up. A carcinoma is a type of cancer that starts in the epithelial tissue. These are tissues that form the covering of all body surfaces as well as the lining of body cavities and hollow organs, and are the main tissue in glands. Most cancer cases (80-90%) are carcinomas.

Adenocarcinoma is one of the two main types of carcinoma, one where the cancer develops in an organ or gland. (The other main type, squamous cell carcinoma, occurs mostly occurs in the skin).


Types of Adenocarcinoma

Your glands make fluids that your body needs to stay moist and work well. You get adenocarcinoma when cells in the glands that line your organs grow out of control. They may spread to other places and harm healthy tissue.

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Adenocarcinoma can start in your:

  • Colon and rectum. The colon, which is also called your large intestine, is part of your digestive system. It’s a long tube that removes water and nutrients from the food you eat. Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of colon cancer. It starts out as a small polyp, or growth, that’s usually harmless at first but can turn into cancer. The disease can also start in your rectum, the part of your large intestine where stool gets pushed out of your body.
  • Breasts. Most breast cancers are adenocarcinomas. They start in the glands of the breast where milk is made.
  • Stomach. This starts in the cells that create mucus. This cancer, also known as gastric cancer, can start either in the stomach or where the stomach meets the esophagus.
  • Esophagus. This is the tube that carries food from your mouth to your stomach. Adenocarcinoma usually starts in mucus glands that line the lower part of your esophagus.
  • Lungs. Adenocarcinoma is most often found in the outer part of the lungs and grows more slowly than other types of lung cancer. You usually get it if you’re a smoker or used to be one.
  • Pancreas. This is an organ in the back of your belly, behind your stomach. It makes hormones and enzymes that digest food. These tumors start in the ducts of this organ.
  • Prostate. This is a gland in men that’s just below the bladder. It helps make some of the fluid that protects sperm cells. Adenocarcinoma starts in the cells that make this fluid. 

Invasive Adenocarcinoma

If your cancer cells spread from where they originated to nearby lymph nodes (glands that are part of the immune system) or tissues, or to another part of your body, this is known as invasive adenocarcinoma.  

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Metastatic Adenocarcinoma

Metastatic adenocarcinoma is a later stage of invasive adenocarcinoma. If your cancer cells have spread to distant body parts, then you are considered to have metastatic adenocarcinoma. For instance, breast cancer could have spread (metastasized) to the brain or lungs.


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