What Is Bronchogenic Adenocarcinoma?

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  • Written By: J.M. Willhite
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2019
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Bronchogenic adenocarcinoma is a form of lung cancer that originates in the surface cells of the lung. Classified as a non-small cell cancer, bronchogenic adenocarcinoma is among the most frequently diagnosed forms of lung cancer. The aggressiveness of adenocarcinoma necessitates a timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment for a good prognosis. Treatment may range from surgery to the administration of anti-cancer therapies and supportive care.

Laboratory and diagnostic tests are generally used to confirm a diagnosis of bronchogenic adenocarcinoma. Samples of the individual’s sputum and lung tissue may be obtained to check for abnormalities that indicate cancer. Imaging tests, including a chest X-ray, are usually performed to evaluate the condition of the lungs. A biopsy of the anomalous tissue or growth is usually taken for analysis to discount or confirm the growth as cancerous. If the tumor is confirmed as malignant, additional tests, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may be conducted to determine the staging, or severity, of the growth.

Bronchogenic adenocarcinoma originates with a mutation in the genetic makeup of the glandular cells of the lung's air sacs. The modified cells reproduce erratically, without dying, contributing to the formation of a small tumor on the peripheral tissue of the bronchus or one of its branches, called a bronchiole. As cell production remains unchecked, the tumor continues to grow and, eventually, becomes invasive to surrounding tissues.


It is unclear what initiates the cellular mutation associated with lung cancer. Over the years, cigarette smoking and regular exposure to secondhand smoke have become inextricably linked to lung cancer. The lungs are resilient and may heal independently in the wake of exposure to pollutants, but regular exposure can inflict irreversible damage, including initiating abnormal cell activity associated with bronchogenic adenocarcinoma.

Lung cancer presents with patterned signs and symptoms. Individuals develop a persistent cough and experience episodic shortness of breath. As the cough worsens, wheezing and hoarseness may start. It is not uncommon for a symptomatic individual to also expel discolored or blood-tinged sputum when he or she coughs. If symptoms of bronchogenic adenocarcinoma are ignored, the individual is at significant risk for complications, including pleural effusion, which is the accumulation of fluid in the chest cavity, and death.

Treatment is usually individualized depending on the staging of the cancer and overall health of the individual. If detected early, bronchogenic adenocarcinoma may be surgically excised with minimal lung resection, or removal. Significantly invasive lung cancers can necessitate the removal of the entire lung. Subsequent anti-cancer therapies, including chemo, are usually administered to kill any residual cancerous cells and may cause side effects that include nausea, weight loss, and pronounced fatigue.

Individuals with advanced bronchogenic adenocarcinoma that responds poorly to traditional treatment may be offered supportive care to make them as comfortable as possible. Supportive care does not focus on eliminating one’s cancer. Rather, the individual’s symptoms are treated with drug therapy, such as pain medication, and he or she is spared the harsh side effects associated with further anti-cancer therapy.


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