What is Glandular Carcinoma?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 16 November 2019
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Glandular carcinoma, also known as adenocarcinoma, is a malignant growth arising in glandular tissue. Such tissue can be found throughout the body, from salivary glands in the eyes to tissue inside glands in the body like the adrenal gland. Patients with glandular carcinoma can experience a variety of symptoms depending on the location and size of the growth. Treatments are available and are usually supervised by an oncologist, sometimes in consultation with an endocrinologist, a physician who specializes in diseases involving hormones, if the tumor interferes with hormone production in the body.

This type of cancer is a form of epithelial cancer, developing in cells used to line or cover physical structures. It occurs when cell division in glandular tissue goes wrong and a rogue cell starts to reproduce out of control. This can occur in response to environmental exposures or at random. Typically, the growth will be nodular and slightly rubbery, and can be palpated if it is in a readily accessible area of the body.


In the early stages, glandular carcinoma may not cause any specific symptoms other than soreness and irritation around the site. In some cases, it triggers overproduction of materials made by the gland, such as saliva, mucus, or hormones. This can lead to secondary symptoms like inflammation caused by excess mucus or weight gain associated with hormone imbalances. A medical imaging study can be used to identify growths inside the body, while a physical examination can reveal a glandular carcinoma in a location like the mouth or lining of the eyelid.

A biopsy is usually recommended to take a sample of the cells and determine the origins of the cancer. This can also be used for staging, to see how far the growth has spread. Excision, where the growth is removed entirely, is an important first step in treatment, designed to limit further development of the cancer. In addition, people may also be advised to consider chemotherapy and/or radiation to treat the cancer. The best treatment option depends on the specifics of the case.

As with other neoplasms, there is a concern with glandular carcinoma that the cancer will spread to other regions of the body. Biopsies of neighboring lymph nodes can be conducted to see if cancerous cells are present, and X-rays can also be used to look for signs of metastases. If the growth has spread, this will complicate treatment significantly and the prognosis for the patient may be more serious.


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