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Adenocarcinoma is cancer that forms in mucus-secreting glands throughout the body. The disease may develop in many different places, but it is most prevalent in the following cancer types:

  • Lung cancer: Non-small cell lung cancer accounts for 80 percent of lung cancers, and adenocarcinoma is the most common type.
  • Prostate cancer: Cancer that forms in the prostate gland is typically an adenocarcinoma, which accounts for 99 percent of all prostate cancers.
  • Pancreatic cancer: Exocrine pancreatic cancer tumors are called adenocarcinomas. They form in the pancreas ducts.
  • Esophageal cancer: Cancer that forms in the glandular cells of the esophagus is known as adenocarcinoma. This is the most common type of esophageal cancer.
  • Colorectal cancer: Cancer that develops in the intestinal gland cells that line the inside of the colon and/or rectum is an adenocarcinoma. It makes up 95 percent of colon and rectal cancers.

Adenocarcinoma may also develop elsewhere in the body.

Understanding adenocarcinoma begins with learning about cancer

Diagnosing adenocarcinoma

Diagnostic tests vary according to where the cancer is located. When diagnosing adenocarcinoma, the following tests may be performed:

Biopsy: Removing a sample of abnormal tissue in the body. A pathologist examines the tissue under a microscope to determine whether cancer is present. If it is, a biopsy may be used to determine whether the cancer originated at the biopsied site or in another part of the body.

Computed tomography (CT) scan: This is an X-ray procedure using a computer to take detailed, three-dimensional pictures of abnormal tissue in the body. CT scans are also performed during treatment to see whether the cancer is responding to treatment.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): MRIs use radiofrequency waves to create detailed cross-sectional images of different parts of the body.

Adenocarcinoma treatment & therapy options

Treatment for adenocarcinoma varies depending on where it grows in the body, but may include:

Surgery: Adenocarcinoma is often treated by surgically removing cancerous glandular tissue, as well as some surrounding tissue. Minimally invasive surgical methods may help reduce healing time and reduce the risk of infection after surgery.

Radiation therapy: This adenocarcinoma treatment option is typically used in combination with surgery and/or chemotherapy. Advanced radiation therapies use image guidance before and during treatment to target adenocarcinoma tumors as part of a process designed to spare healthy tissues and surrounding organs.

Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy treats adenocarcinoma with drugs designed to destroy cancer cells, either throughout the whole body or in a specific area. In some cases, chemotherapy may be used in combination with other treatments, such as radiation therapy or surgery.