June 26, 2023

What does carcinoma mean?

Carcinoma is a term used to describe a group of cancers that start from specialized epithelial cells that cover the outside or inside surfaces of an organ. Carcinoma can start anywhere in the body where epithelial cells are normally found including the skin, breast, lungs, oral cavity, esophagus, stomach, colon, prostate, bladder, ovary, uterus, and cervix. As a group, carcinomas are the most common type of human cancer.

This image shows an example of carcinoma in the breast.

Does carcinoma mean cancer?

Yes. Carcinoma is a type of cancer.

What causes carcinoma?

The cause of carcinoma depends on many factors including the type of carcinoma and the location of the tumour. For example, carcinomas in the lungs are often caused by smoking while carcinoma in the cervix is commonly caused by human papillomavirus (HPV).

What are the symptoms of carcinoma?

The symptoms of carcinoma will vary greatly depending on the type of carcinoma and the location of the tumour. For example, carcinoma in the colon may result in a change in bowel habits, abdominal pain, and bloody stools. In contrast, carcinoma in the lung may cause symptoms such as persistent or worsening cough, shortness of breath, and chest pain.

Are all cancers carcinomas?

No. Carcinoma is a type of cancer but not all cancers are carcinomas. Other types of cancers include lymphoma, melanoma, and sarcoma.

What are the types of carcinomas?

Carcinoma is divided into types based on the kinds of cells that make up the tumour. Types of carcinomas include squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, urothelial carcinoma, and neuroendocrine carcinoma.

What does metastatic carcinoma mean?

The term metastatic carcinoma is used to describe cancer cells that have traveled from the place where the tumour started (the primary tumour) to another part of the body such as a lymph node, the lungs, the liver, or a bone.

Other helpful resources

Canadian Cancer Society

American Cancer Society

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