What is a Cystadenocarcinoma?

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  • Written By: Christina Crockett
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 08 January 2020
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A cystadenocarcinoma is a malignant — or cancerous — cystic tumor that develops from glandular tissue and can be found in various organs such as the kidney, pancreas, colon, breasts and ovaries. It is the most common malignant ovarian tumor. Secretions or fluids are retained in a cyst, which can grow and even produce multiple cysts then develop into a cystadenocarcinoma that metastasize if left untreated.

One can clarify the definition by breaking down the term "cystadenocarcinoma." A cyst is an enclosed, fluid-filled sac with membranes that attach to surrounding tissue, such as the ovary. The word "adenoma" translates to a benign tumor that can develop in places such as the colon, adrenal glands or thyroid. When the adenoma progresses into a cancerous tumor, it becomes what is known as an adenocarcinoma, with "carcinoma" meaning "cancerous." The cyst can contain variations of fluid, blood and solid matter or a combination of each.

There are two common types of cystadenocarcinomas. The first is called a serous cystadenocarcinoma. The surface of this type of cyst is commonly covered in abnormal growths with vascular projections called papillary excrescences. It tends to have a fibrous center and is filled with a clear, thin fluid.


The second type is called a mucinous cystadenocarcinoma. This is a semi-solid tumor also prevalent in the ovary and other organs. Many times, this cyst breaks open to reveal a nest of additional tumors and is filled with a yellow, gelatinous fluid that is sticky.

As the cyst develops and adheres to surrounding tissue, there can be ascites, which are a buildup of fluid in the abdomen. This can lead to symptoms of a cystadenocarcinoma, which can be vague but typically include a swollen abdomen and pain in the affected areas. Commonly, these areas include the lower abdomen and lower back on either the right side or left side. If a cystadenocarcinoma occurs in the ovaries, abnormal menstrual cycles can also occur. Most cases of cystadenocarcinomas are diagnosed at advanced stages, because early symptoms can easily be missed and are not apparent until the late stages of cyst formation.

Diagnosing a cystadenocarcinoma includes palpation and various types of ultrasounds. The treatment is chemotherapy upon complete surgical removal of the cystadenocarcinoma and surrounding tissue. Ongoing treatment might be advised by certified oncology and gynecology institutions.

The most frequent cause of both benign and malignant ovarian cysts is the imbalance of hormones. Contributing factors to many types of cysts might include a weak immune system, certain medications, some hormone-altered foods and pesticides or products such as harmful cleaning fluids, paints and plastics. Leading a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a diet rich in vegetables, fruit, nuts and whole grains as well as minimal exposure to harmful chemicals might lower the risk of developing a cystadenocarcinoma.


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