Adenocarcinoma of the Lung

The most common type of lung cancer is adenocarcinoma of the lung, which constitutes as much as 35% of all diagnosed cases of the cancer.  The last three decades saw the increase in the number of women afflicted with this particular type of lung cancer.  Ironically, the risk of developing the disease that usually does not manifest any symptoms is present for both smokers and non-smokers alike, although of varying degrees.

A majority of adenocarcinoma cases are discovered at the lungs’ outer edge.  Because of this, they often remain asymptomatic until they have developed into more advanced stages.  They usually show a thickening of the lining of the lungs (pleura) on an x-ray. In a lot of instances, they are only detected while conducting routine tests as no tests are usually done to specifically search for them.  The cancer is usually seen as a growth of 2 to 5 centimeters in size. 

More than half of all patients with adenocarcinoma of the lung are diagnosed by accident.  In most of these cases, the cancer growth is discovered while undergoing a routine x-ray.  The presence of an asymptomatic nodule usually leads to more tests to confirm the existence of the lung cancer. 

The fact that this type of cancer growth does not show any symptoms during the initial stages makes treatment more difficult as it is usually applied only on the latter stages of development.  As in most types of cancer, the odds for a successful treatment are considerably higher when the cancer growth is discovered early.

Symptoms

Lung adenocarcinoma normally begins to form on the outer edges of the lungs.  Because of this, the normal recognizable symptoms of lung cancer like chronic cough or coughing up blood, are not present and may manifest only during the more advanced stages of the disease.  This makes treatment more difficult.

The initial symptoms that can then be seen include mild shortness of breath; general lack of energy or fatigue; and chest, shoulder, or back pains.  Symptoms that may also manifest include insistent chest pain, loss of voice, various respiratory infections, effortless weight loss, worsening cough, loss of appetite, and swelling in the neck and face areas.

Diagnosis

Although the adenocarcinoma type of lung cancer is often initially diagnosed incidentally through a regular chest x-ray procedure while undergoing routine medical examination or while trying to find something else, other diagnostic procedures may also lead to the discovery of the lung cancer.  These procedures include bronchoscopy, chest CT or computer tomography, sputum cytology, and PET scan.

The results of the selected diagnostic method will determine whether the doctor will request for tissue samples in order to be able to confirm a proper diagnosis.  Additional tests may be done to find out if the tumor has metastasized or spread.  Tests for genetic change indicators (lung markers) that are associated with some known cases of adenocarcinoma of the lung may likewise be requested to help the oncologist in selecting the best plan to manage the disease.  As symptoms are not seen until the latter stages, medical attention should immediately be sought if there is any suspicion of lung adenocarcinoma.

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