Adenocarcinoma of the lung is the single most common type of lung cancer; it accounts for about 40% of all lung cancers. Fortunately in the case of adenocarcinoma of the lung, this type also has typically the best prognosis.
When the prefix adeno- is used to denote a cell type, it means that the cell’s primary purpose is to excrete something. In other words, adeno- means gland. An adenocarcinoma is a cancer that is comprised of cells that excrete a biological substance, though the cancerous mutation may have inhibited or accentuated this excretion. When the term adenocarcinoma is applied to the lung, it means that one of the lung’s mucin-secreting cells has become cancerous. Mucin is a thick, carbohydrate-rich coating that helps to protect the lungs from injury.
Adenocarcinoma of the lung can be divided into four categories, as laid out by the World Health Organization (WHO):
Acinus cells partly make up the air sacs or alveoli in the lungs. They act as a glandular cell in their normal state. Bronchoalveolar tumors come from cells higher up in the lungs, specifically type II pneumocytes. While the WHO considers bronchoalveolar tumors to be an adenocarcinoma, type II pneumocytes are not known for their ability to secrete mucin or other substances. The function of mucus-secreting cells is self-explanatory though this function may no longer apply once this cell type has mutated. Finally, papillary cells resemble nipples or pimples at the microscopic level and are differentiated from other adenocarcinomas by their appearance.
Adenocarcinoma of the lung often occurs at the periphery of the lung (outer edges). Therefore when cells are taken for diagnosis (biopsy), it is sometimes possible to guide a needle from the outside of the body. A fluoroscope, which is a CT/X-ray hybrid that can take real-time images, is used to help direct the biopsy needle to the tumor. If fluoroscopy is not possible, ultrasound may be used instead.
Compensation information is available for those diagnosed with lung cancer. Call us toll-free at 1-800-258-1054.
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