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What Are the Different Types of Epithelial Cancer?

By K. Allen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Epithelial cancer, also known as epithelial carcinoma or simply carcinoma, accounts for approximately 85% of all cancers. Different types of epithelial cells develop into different types of cancer, and the nomenclature is dependent upon both the type of cell that it attacks and the organ of the body in which it is found. Squamous cell cancer is found in squamous epithelial cells. If these cells are located in the lung, it is called squamous cell lung cancer. Adenocarcinoma is found in adenomatous cells, or glandular cells, and transitional cells are the targets of transitional cell cancer.

Different types of epithelial tissue, collectively known as the epithelium, cover all the organs of the body, inside and out. One of their primary functions is to provide protection for the organ they enclose. Additionally, they also facilitate the absorption, secretion, and transfer of various substances in and out of the body’s organs. They are designed to replicate rapidly, which means those that become cancerous can then metastasize and quickly spread from one organ to another.

There are several different manifestations of epithelial cancer, but ovarian cancer has the greatest rate of occurrence. This type begins in the cells on the surface of the ovaries. There are few early symptoms. Of the many cancers that target the female reproductive organs, ovarian cancer has one of the highest mortality rates.

Squamous cells are flat and scale-like and are found in epithelial tissues covering organs all over the body, including the skin, lungs, esophagus, and reproductive organs. A single layer of these cells is called simple squamous epithelium, while areas consisting of more than one layer are referred to as stratified squamous epithelium. Three of the more common forms of epithelial cancer in these cells include squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and adnexal tumors.

Adenocarcinoma is an epithelial cancer that starts in the glandular tissue. The colon contains numerous glands within its tissue, and most forms of colorectal cancer are classified as adencarinoma. Squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma are two of the eight major types of lung cancers.

Epithelial cancer is often difficult to diagnose. Symptoms are extremely diverse, ranging from fatigue and loss of appetite to skin lesions. Ovarian cancer often presents no early signs at all. If diagnosed in an early stage, however, carcinoma is treatable, usually with chemotherapy.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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