What Are the Different Types of Primary Adenocarcinoma?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 06 January 2019
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Primary adenocarcinoma is the term given to describe an original tumor occurring in adenocarcinoma. The location of the original tumor is known as the primary or parent site. This term is generally used when the cancer has started spreading and new tumors begin to appear. The most common places for adenocarcinoma to occur are in the lungs, pancreas, breast, liver, prostate and stomach.

Adenocarcinoma is a form of cancer that caused tumors in the epithelial cells of the glands. Primary adenocarcinoma is an original malignant tumor occurring in one site without spreading. The cancer cells continue to grow and take over the epithelial cells, thereby causing a tumor to form in the glandular tissue. There are several common types of adenocarcinoma that cause cancerous growths in the glands of their respective areas.

One of the most common types of primary adenocarcinoma occurs in the lungs. This type of cancer occurs in the glandular cells located in the epithelium of the bronchi in the lungs. Adenocarcinoma of the lung affects almost half of all lung cancer patients. If left untreated, it destroys the lungs and reaches the point where it begins spreading, becoming secondary adenocarcinoma.

Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is also known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. In this case, the pancreatic duct is affected. It is the second-most common cancer-related death because it is harder to diagnose during the crucial early stages. This cancer generally occurs in people who are 60-80 years old.


Primary adenocarcinoma of the breast can affect either the mammary ducts or lobules and sometimes both of these. The two types of glands are different, but they both contain glandular epithelial tissue. Ductal adenocarcinoma causes growths to take over the milk ducts. On the other hand, lobular adenocarcinoma commonly begins in the ducts and spreads to the lobular gland, making it a secondary adenocarcinoma. The exception is when lobules are affected before or in conjunction with the ducts.

Skin adenocarcinoma occurs in the sweat glands. It is one of the more rare forms of primary adenocarcinoma and is often limited to one area. This type of cancer is most commonly found in the elderly patients.

Cervical primary adenocarcinoma is found in the cervical glandular cells that run from the cervix to the uterus. Treating this type of cancer early is important to prevent metastasis, which can occur rapidly. Regular pap smear tests help ensure early detection.

Primary adenocarcinoma of the prostate is commonly found in men age 40 or older. This cancer can spread quickly if it is undetected and left untreated. It is the sixth-most common form of cancer.

Stomach and esophageal adenocarcinoma occur mainly in the mucous glands. Many doctors believe that Barrett’s esophagus, a condition that is related to acid reflux, is the main cause of this adenocarcinoma. Acid reflux can change the epithelial cells in the glands of these areas, causing tumors to grow in the glands.

In some cases, metastatic tumors are found, but the primary adenocarcinoma cannot be immediately identified. Doctors consider several factors to determine the tumors' place of origin. Metastatic patterns can be mapped and used to back-trace the cancer and locate the primary site. For example, if it is found in the upper body, the cancer is more likely to have originated from an area above the diaphragm, and cancer in the lower body typically originated from below the diaphragm.



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