What Is Mucinous Adenocarcinoma?

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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2019
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Mucinous adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that is made up of at least 60% mucus. Adenocarcinoma can occur in many different parts of the body, though it is always found in a type of tissue known as epithelial tissue. These specialized cells are found in the lining of various organs, and these types of cancers are most common in the colon, liver, lungs, and breasts. If the adenocarcinoma is classified as mucinous, it can spread more quickly and be much harder to treat.

There are many different types of mucinous adenocarcinoma. They are common in the organs of the digestive, endocrine, and reproductive systems, as well as in the lungs and liver. The cancer will behave differently depending on the organ in which the mucinous adenocarcinoma has developed. Once it is discovered, a treatment plan will be developed based on how the cancer in the affected organ generally responds.


Though the behavior of the cancer in a patient’s body will largely be affected by the organ in which it first developed, mucinous adenocarcinoma is generally an aggressive form of cancer. The mucus in the tumor makes it possible for the cancer to spread rapidly, giving doctors a limited time to treat the disease before it metastasizes or becomes terminal. Treatments for these types of cancer are also generally aggressive and may involve a combination of chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and alternative treatments. Though mucinous adenocarcinoma is an aggressive cancer, a patient’s chances of surviving the disease vary significantly depending on which organ is affected and how well-differentiated the cancer cells are.

The cancerous cells may be well-differentiated, appearing similar to healthy cells, or they may be poorly-differentiated, showing abnormalities in physical make-up and in the structures of the cell. These cells cling together in the form of a tumor, divide more quickly than healthy cells, and do not die, as normal cells do. The mucus content of the tumor allows the cells to divide even more rapidly than they would normally. Epithelial cells are often surrounded by mucus, which makes adenocarcinoma more likely to form into a mucinous cancer than cancers that originate in other types of cells.


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