What is Mucinous Carcinoma?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Mucinous carcinoma is a type of malignant neoplasm that arises in cells designed to produce mucin, one of the key ingredients in mucus. Mucin-producing cells can be found in many regions of the body, most particularly in linings like the intestinal tract, the tissue found in the ducts of the breast, and the bladder, among many other locations. Survival rates for people with this type of cancer vary, depending on where the cancer grows and how far it progresses before it is diagnosed.

Mucinous carcinoma may develop inside the breasts.
Mucinous carcinoma may develop inside the breasts.

Mucus is used by the body for a wide range of functions including protection and lubrication. The widespread presence of cells that make mucin means that a mucinous carcinoma can grow almost anywhere in the body. As with other types of cancers, the growth starts with a small cell or group of cells that are disrupted and begin to multiply out of control. These cells may also overproduce mucin, and this may cause the cancer to spread more quickly than other types of cancers. These cancers tend to grow quickly, becoming very large, and to spread rapidly.

Lab technicians may check biopsy samples from lymph nodes to determine whether cancer cells have spread.
Lab technicians may check biopsy samples from lymph nodes to determine whether cancer cells have spread.

A person with a mucinous carcinoma may experience symptoms like pain and irritation. A lump can sometimes be identified if the growth begins in a palpable area like a sweat gland or the inside of the breast. Carcinomas in locations like the bladder can cause other symptoms like bloody urine or difficulty urinating. Patients can be screened with tools like medical imaging studies to look for abnormalities, as well as biopsies, to take samples from suspicious growths for analysis in a lab environment.

Mucinous carcinomas in the bladder may cause bloody urine or difficulty urinating.
Mucinous carcinomas in the bladder may cause bloody urine or difficulty urinating.

Lab technicians can look for a number of telltale signs of a mucinous carcinoma. These cancers tend to produce poorly differentiated cells floating in pools of mucus, making them distinct from other types of cancers. The technician can examine the cells to learn more about where they originated and can also check biopsy samples from neighboring lymph nodes to see if the cancer cells have had an opportunity to spread.

Chemotherapy may be used to destroy cancer cells caused by mucinous carcinoma.
Chemotherapy may be used to destroy cancer cells caused by mucinous carcinoma.

Treatments for mucinous carcinoma can include surgery to remove the growth, along with chemotherapy and radiation to destroy cancer cells that are still present in the body. Testing can be used to identify treatments the cells may be sensitive to in order to use the most effective treatment possible. Once the patient has been cleared of the cancer, follow-up testing may be recommended periodically to identify recurrences as early as possible, if they occur.

Chemotherapy and radiation treatment may cause hair loss in some patients.
Chemotherapy and radiation treatment may cause hair loss in some patients.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

fBoyle

@feruze-- No, mucinous carcinoma is rare, regardless of where it is found. I was one of the few lucky ones who had mucinous carcinoma of the breast.

I had surgery plus radiation therapy four years ago. I've been in the clear so far, I hope it will continue this way.

bear78

@burcinc-- It's not very common. I think a very small percentage of ovarian cancers belong to this category. Mucinous breast carcinoma is more common.

I was told I have a mass in my right ovary six months ago. I had to have surgery so that they can determine what the mass is. I read all about ovary cancers, including mucinous carcinoma at that time. Thankfully, my mass turned out to be a benign cyst.

Do you know what stage of cancer your aunt is in? Hopefully it's only at the ovaries and has not spread. She might make it with only surgery to remove the ovaries in that case. If it has spread, she will need chemotherapy too.

My prayers are with your aunt!

burcinc

Is mucinous carcinoma of the ovaries very rare?

I just found out that my aunt has this. I'm shocked. Are there any mucinous ovary carcinoma survivors here?

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