What Are the Types of Differentiated Adenocarcinoma?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Angela B.
  • Last Modified Date: 12 November 2019
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When developing a treatment plan for various types of adenocarcinoma, one of the things doctors consider is the differentiation of the cells of the tumor. There are different ratings of differentiated adenocarcinoma that range from undifferentiated to well differentiated. In general, the more well differentiated the cancer cells are, the less aggressive the cancer is. While doctors may use a general scale to rate how differentiated the adenocarcinoma cells are, each type of cancer, whether lung cancer, breast cancer or another form, may use its own specific scale to separate the types of cancer cells into more specific categories.

The least aggressive form of adenocarcinoma is low-grade or well differentiated adenocarcinoma. In this type of tumor, the cells closely resemble the patient’s healthy cells. These types of cancer cells divide slowly, which results in slow tumor growth. Patients with these types of tumors often have a better prognosis than those with tumors given other ratings. Treatment for well differentiated cancer may start out more conservatively because the patient often has more time to fight a slowly growing tumor.


It is also possible for patients to have what is called a moderately differentiated adenocarcinoma. The cells in this type of tumor may somewhat resemble healthy cells but may have more abnormalities than cells that are well differentiated. A tumor made of this type of cell will generally grow more quickly than a tumor with well differentiated cells, though it is not as aggressive as some other types of cancerous cells.

Patients with poorly differentiated adenocarcinoma often have a poorer prognosis than other patients. These cells are significantly different from the normal cells in the affected organ and grow at a rapid rate, allowing the tumor to grow quickly. In poorly differentiated cells, some of the organelles may be missing or malformed and the cell will not function properly. Multiple treatment approaches are often used on patients with these types of cancer cells.

The most aggressive type of cancer cell is the undifferentiated cell. The components of these cells, such as organelles, are often absent and the cells have usually failed to mature. Cancer cells of this type are considered to be highly aggressive and difficult to treat, because their rapid rate of division leads to rapid tumor growth. Treating patients with undifferentiated adenocarcinoma cells often requires a very aggressive treatment plan.


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