What Are the Most Common Adenocarcinoma Symptoms?

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  • Written By: S. Berger
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 20 October 2019
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Cancer that arises in glandular tissue and affects epithelial cells is known as adenocarcinoma, and it can affect a variety of tissues in the body. Symptoms depend on which part of the body is affected by this type of cancer. Epithelial cells comprise the skin and glands in the body, so adenocarcinomas can form in many organs. However, the most common adenocarcinomas occur in the colon and lungs, and cause symptoms associated with each of these cancer types.

Adenocarcinoma comprises 40% of all lung cancer cases, and is the most common lung cancer to develop in non-smokers. One of the primary symptoms that separates this form of cancer from other carcinomas is mucus production, due to the fact that lung adenocarcinoma affects glands and ducts. This form of cancer tends to develop in the periphery of the lungs, so it can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, and chest aches early in the cancer staging. Only after the cancerous growths have spread to the center of the lungs does the patient experience symptoms such as coughing up blood or persistent coughing. Other adenocarcinoma symptoms shared with other lung cancer types include hoarseness, wheezing, loss of appetite, weight loss, and depression; however, about 25% of lung cancer cases do not show any symptoms whatsoever.


Most colorectal cancers are adenocarcinomas that first appear on the epithelial cells that comprise the exterior of the colon and rectum. These adenocarcinoma symptoms include local and constitutional symptoms, which affect the gastrointestinal tract and the entire body, respectively. Local symptoms can include diarrhea, constipation, incomplete defecation, bloody stools, blood leakage from the rectum, mucus in the stool, and even complete bowel obstruction in more advanced cases. Constitutional adenocarcinoma symptoms include fever, deep vein thrombosis, weight loss, and anemia. The anemia from colorectal adenocarcinoma is caused by iron deficiency as a result of persistent bleeding, and can lead to heart palpitations, fatigue, and a pale, sickly appearance.

Other adenocarcinomas are less common, but also carry sets of symptoms unique to the tissue they affect. The minority of adenocarcinoma-based cervical cancers cause pain during sexual intercourse, vaginal bleeding, and vaginal discharge in the initial stages, with pelvic pain, weight loss, and leg swelling occurring as the cancer advances. Pancreatic cancer does not always cause symptoms, but when it does, it can include weight loss, diabetes mellitus, jaundice, and abdominal pain. Discharge and mucus are often found with with these types of cancers, since they affect glandular tissue first.


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