Key Points about Lung Adenocarcinoma

  • Lung adenocarcinoma begins in the cells of the lungs that secrete mucus.
  • Doctors use imaging tests, biopsy, genetic testing, blood tests and physical exam to diagnose lung adenocarcinomas.
  • Treatment for lung adenocarcinoma may involve surgery to remove part or all of a lung or lung lobe, chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy.


Lung cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the lungs, which are located in the chest and are an important part of the respiratory (breathing) system. Lung adenocarcinoma occurs when the cancer begins in the lung cells that secrete mucus. 

This condition is typically found in the outer areas of the lungs and is usually diagnosed before it has spread outside of the lungs. Therefore, patients diagnosed with adenocarcinomas have a good rate of treatment success – especially when compared to other types of lung cancer.

Being a current or previous smoker increases your risk of developing lung adenocarcinoma. However, this type of cancer is the most common type of lung cancer in people who have never smoked.

Lung adenocarcinoma causes 

Lung adenocarcinoma is caused by a mutation (change) to the DNA of the cells of the lungs.

Lung adenocarcinoma risk factors

The following factors may increase your risk for developing lung adenocarcinoma:

  • Being a smoker or having a history of smoking
  • Being exposed to radon gas or asbestos
  • Being exposed to second-hand smoke
  • Being female
  • Being younger
  • Having a family history of lung cancer
  • Having undergone radiation therapy to the chest for another type of cancer

Lung adenocarcinoma symptoms

Signs and symptoms of lung adenocarcinoma can include:

  • Cough that doesn’t go away
  • Coughing up blood
  • Headache
  • Hoarseness
  • Pain in the chest
  • Pain in your bones
  • Shortness of breath
  • Unintentional weight loss

Lung adenocarcinoma diagnosis

Your oncologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:

  • Physical exam - your doctor will perform a complete physical exam – including asking questions about your health history, your symptoms and related risk factors.
  • Biopsy - in this test, your doctor removes a biopsy (small tissue sample) from your lung. This sample is sent to the laboratory, where a specialist closely checks the biopsy for abnormalities.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan - your doctor may order a CT scan of your chest. This specialized imaging test uses a series of X-ray images to create detailed images of the inside of your body. Imaging tests help your doctor determine if the cancer has spread beyond your lungs.
  • Sputum cytology - if you have a persistent cough, your doctor may send a sample of your sputum (spit) to the lab for close analysis. Sometimes, cancerous cells can be seen in the sputum sample.
  • Ultrasound - your doctor may order an ultrasound, an imaging test that uses sound waves to create detailed images of your chest. Imaging tests help your doctor determine if the cancer has spread beyond your lung.

Lung adenocarcinoma treatment

Depending on your personal health history, the extent of your lung adenocarcinoma and other factors, your oncologist may recommend one or more of the following treatment options:

  • Surgery - your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure to remove part or all of the lung with the cancerous cells, along with a margin of healthy tissue. A lobectomy is the surgical removal of the entire lobe of a lung; a pneumonectomy is the surgical removal of an entire lung.
  • Chemotherapy - this treatment involves the use of medications to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be delivered orally (a pill taken by mouth) or by an intravenous, or IV, liquid (injected into a vein). You may need to undergo chemotherapy after surgery so that your doctor can destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically.
  • Radiation therapy - this treatment uses high-powered energy beams to destroy cancerous cells. You may need to undergo radiation therapy to destroy any cancerous cells that couldn’t be removed surgically.

When should I seek care?

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing an oncologist for more specialized treatment.

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