What is an Adenocarcinoma of the Colon?

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  • Written By: Allison Boelcke
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 17 May 2019
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Adenocarcinoma is a form of cancer that develops on the soft tissues of glands, which are cells that release substances, such as mucus, hormones, or sweat, throughout the body. This type of cancer cause occur in any area of the body, but one of the most common body parts affected is the colon. The colon is the portion of the large intestine that leads to the rectum.

Cancer due to adenocarcinoma of the colon generally first begins with the growth of adenomas. Adenomas are growths that develop in epithelial tissue, which serves as a protective barrier over organs, glands, and other internal body parts. These growths on the colon may begin as non-cancerous, but can become cancerous as they grow larger.

When adenocarcinoma of the colon first develops, it may not have any noticeable symptoms. As it starts to worsen, a person may notice definite changes in his or her bowel movements, such as frequency, consistency, pain, or even bloody discharge. More advanced cases of colon cancer may cause unexplainable weight loss, a build up of abdominal fluid, or skin yellowing known as jaundice.


The exact causes of colon cancer due to adenocarcinoma is unknown. It tends to occur most often in people over age 50, so age is a risk factor. People with a family history of colon cancer are also more likely to develop it, which may suggest it is due to specific gene abnormalities. It is also thought that a diet low in fiber, a naturally occurring plant substance that helps with regular bowel movements, may be a potential cause of colon cancer.

There is no definitive cure for adenocarcinoma of the colon. The earliest stages of colon cancer may be treated with surgery to remove the cancerous growths. If the cancer is extensive or has spread to other areas of the body, a doctor may attempt to destroy the cancerous cells with radiation or chemotherapy.

It may be possible to enact measures to prevent the formation of adenomas. Increasing the amount of fiber in the diet, as well as limiting the amount of fat, may lower a person’s risk of getting the disease. Regular exercise is also thought to be an effective preventative measure. Even if prevention does not work, adenocarcinoma of the colon can typically be treated more effectively if the growths are found sooner; therefore, doctors generally recommend people over the age of 50 or those at a high risk for colon cancer get screened before symptoms ever arise.



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