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What is Epithelial Carcinoma?

By Andy Josiah
Updated May 17, 2024
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Epithelial carcinoma is a type of cancer that affects the epithelium, which is a tissue that lines the body's organs. It can also be referred to as simply carcinoma, since this particular medical term is used to describe a type of cancer that involves epithelial cells. Through its various incarnations, it is one of the most pervasive cancers in existence. Additionally, it has the tendency to metastasize, which means that the cancer can spread from one organ to another.

The epithelial carcinoma form of cancer is commonly associated with the ovaries. This type of ovarian cancer is split into five types. The most common form is serous epithelial ovarian cancer, named so because it occurs in the serous membrane, which has an layer of epithelial cells. It accounts for about 60 percent of all ovarian cancers, which is why the term "ovarian cancer" has become synonymous with malignant tumors in the serous membrane.

Although not as common as the cancer of the serous membrane, mucinous and endometrioid epithelial carcinomas combined form an estimated 45 percent of all ovarian cancer cases. The former is named after its origin in the mucous membranes, which is covered by epithelium, while the latter affects the inner membrane of the uterus. Much rarer forms of epithelial carcinoma that afflict the ovaries include clear cell adenocarcinoma, named after the colorless tumors occurring in glandular tissue; and Brenner tumors, also known as transitional cell epithelial ovarian cancer.

As evidenced by the several types of cancers concerning the ovaries, many instances of epithelial carcinoma are specialized to certain areas of the body. For instance, clear cell adenocarcinoma concentrates on the female genital tract, which means that it not only can occur in the ovaries, but in the cervix, uterus and vagina as well. Epithelial-myoepithelial carcinoma is a cancer of the parotid salivary duct, with the most common occurrence in elderly people. Other localized forms of epithelial carcinoma include acinar adenocarcinoma, which affects the prostate; basal cell carcinoma, a form of skin cancer; and gastric adenocarcinoma, which is a clinical term for stomach cancer.

Squamous-cell carcinoma, though, is notable for occurring in a variety of organs and body parts. This includes the esophagus, lips, lungs, skin and vagina. The disease is named after a scales-possessing form of epithelial layer called the squamous epithelium.

Due to its multiple forms, the symptoms of epithelial carcinoma vary widely and may include skin lesions, dark urine and diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and plummeting appetite. The disease is treatable when diagnosed early. Physicians usually rely on chemotherapy as the prime option of treatment. In more extreme cases, surgery may be required.

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