Pathology dictionary

What does carcinoma mean?

Carcinoma is the name given to a group of cancers. This type of cancer develops from the cells found on the surface of a tissue. These cells are called epithelial cells. The tissue can be from any location in the body. There are many different types of carcinomas and each type looks different when examined under the microscope.

Types of carcinoma
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – Epithelial cells on the surface of the skin and the inside of the mouth, esophagus, and airways in our lungs are called squamous cells. A carcinoma made up of squamous cells is called squamous cell carcinoma.
  • Adenocarcinoma – Epithelial cells also form small structures inside organs called glands. These kinds of epithelial cells are found inside the stomach, colon, breast, and prostate. A carcinoma made up of glands is called adenocarcinoma.

If you have been diagnosed with a carcinoma, the behavior of the tumour depends on many factors including:

  • The location of the tumour.
  • The size of the tumour.
  • The histologic type of the tumour.
  • The tumour grade.
  • The margin status.
  • Whether any cancer cells where found in lymph nodes.
  • Whether any cancer cells have traveled to a distant body site (metastatic disease).

Pathologists examine the tumour, lymph nodes, and other tissues and provide information about most of these factors in your pathology report.

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