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Carcinoma is the cancer that develops in the inner or outer surface of the body. The cancer develops in the cells of the endodermal or ectodermal germ layer of the skin. As the cancer develops in the skin, it can affect any organ and body cavity. The carcinomas can spread to the nearby organs, tissues and lymph nodes as they are malignant and aggressive in nature. Carcinomas are the most common type of cancers affecting the human world.

Carcinoma develops when the genome of a epithelial cell is altered or damaged during embryogeneis. This alteration or damage is such that it transforms the cell to exhibit malignancy.

Types and Symptoms of Carcinoma

There are different types of carcinomas that can begin in the:

  • Lung
  • Prostate
  • Blood vessels
  • Brain
  • Spinal cord
  • Immune system cells

Let us have a look at certain commonly occurring carcinomas and their symptoms.

Basal Cell Carcinoma

This type of cancer affects the deepest part of the epidermis (outer layer of skin). It is the most common form of all carcinomas.


Basal cell carcinoma occurs due to over exposure to the sun and getting sunburned more than 2 to 3 times.


  • Appearance of open sores
  • Red patches on the skin
  • Pink growths
  • Developing shiny bumps and scars

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

The cancer that affects the squamous cells of the epithelial skin layer. This cancer often shows up on the skin and is commonly known as skin cancer. However, this cancer can occur within the body like on the digestive tract, respiratory tract as well as on certain organs like bladder, prostate, vagina, cervix, lungs, etc.


The cancer can occur due to infection by Human papilloma virus (HPV). In some cases, over exposure to sunlight along with immunosuppression can lead to squamous cell carcinoma. The cancer often appears in the most exposed part of the body to the sun like the face, ears, neck, hands and arms.


The symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma include:

  • Crusting and bleeding of skin
  • Open sores
  • Red, scaly patches
  • Abnormal growths with a depression in the center
  • Warts
  • Hard plaque or papule
  • Multiple actinic keratosis

Large-cell Lung Carcinoma

Large-cell lung carcinoma is the cancer of epithelial cells present in the lungs. It makes up 5 to 10% of all lung cancers. The tumor cells do not exhibit the light microscopic characteristic, that helps classify the tumor into squamous cell carcinoma, adenocarcinoma or other types of lung cancer.


The main cause of large-cell lung carcinoma is tobacco smoking.


  • Typical non-productive cough
  • Unexplained weight loss

Small-cell Lung Carcinoma

This is a highly malignant cancer of the lung. It can also occur in other sites such as cervix, prostate and gastrointestinal tract.


Small-cell lung cancer occurs mainly due to tobacco smoking.


  • Coughing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Bone pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Secretion of substances that leads to paraneoplastic syndromes and Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome


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Adenocarcinoma are cancers that occur in the glandular cells. These cells secrete mucus and other fluids in the different organs of the body. Adenocarcinoma’s occur in the breast, prostate, colon and lung.


  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Perforation in the intestine
  • Rapid bleeding leading to black, tarry stools

Diagnosis of Carcinoma

Carcinoma can be diagnosed with the help of tissue biopsy, fine needle aspiration, subtotal removal of a single node. In some cases, microscopic examination of the cells to identify the molecular, cellular and other characteristics of epithelial cells.

Treatment of Carcinoma

The treatment of carcinoma depends on the stage, location of tumor and other factors. The treatment includes:

  • Low dose chemotherapy
  • Insulin potential therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Surgical removal of cancerous tissue
  • Hormonal therapy

Carcinoma can lead to many changes in the affected person’s life. It can also prove to be fatal in advanced stages. Support from family and friends is important for a positive outlook for the patient. Speak to your doctor for more details on carcinoma.

Written by: Saptakee sengupta
Date last updated: April 05, 2015