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What Is a Serous Adenoma?

By H. Colledge
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An adenoma is a non-cancerous growth, or benign tumor, which develops from cells in glandular tissue. This glandular origin means that a tumor may arise from serous cells, which would normally secrete a watery fluid, or mucinous cells, which would produce mucus. A serous adenoma typically develops from serous cells in an organ such as the pancreas or ovary. Serous adenomas of the pancreas are rare and may contain fluid-filled spaces, or cysts, in which case they are usually known as cystadenomas. Cystadenomas, which may be serous or mucinous, also develop in the ovaries and, in a few cases, a serous adenoma found in the pancreas or ovaries may be a solid tumor.

A serous adenoma of the ovary is formed from epithelial tissue which is similar to the epithelium lining the fallopian tubes. These types of growths are most frequently found in women between 40 and 60 years of age and they may not cause any symptoms or health complications. When symptoms occur, they could include lower back pain or abdominal aches, a swelling in the abdomen, or an increased need to urinate. A serous adenoma may cause the ovary to twist round, cutting off its blood supply, in which case a more severe pain would be experienced. Occasionally, cystic tumors may rupture or bleed.

In the pancreas, a serous adenoma is typically benign, unlike mucinous tumors, which may be benign or cancerous. Serous cystadenomas occur more commonly than mucinous tumors, but it can be difficult to distinguish between the two on ultrasound scans, so a CT, or computerized tomography, and MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, may also be required. A sample of cells may be drawn out of the tumor using a fine needle and studied microscopically to confirm the diagnosis. Symptoms associated with pancreatic serous cystadenomas may include abdominal pain and attacks of pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas.

Although a serous adenoma is typically benign, it is possible in rare cases for some tumors to transform and become malignant. The treatment of a serous adenoma will vary depending on the location. A pancreatic tumor which is causing symptoms may be managed surgically, and laparoscopic, or keyhole, surgery techniques may be used to cut out the tumor in some cases. For a tumor of the ovary, the adenoma may be removed together with the ovary using either keyhole or conventional surgery. When a tumor which is discovered accidentally during another investigation is causing no problems, and is identified as benign, it may be best left alone.

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Discussion Comments
By SteamLouis — On Jan 18, 2012

Thank you so much for this article. I have been trying to find out the meaning of a serous adenoma for the past week with no luck.

My sister, who has been diagnosed with a malignant tumour in the pancreas, gave me her reports to look at. She has been too down both emotionally and energy-wise to do any research on this. Her report mentions a "serous adenocarcinoma" in her pancreas. I understood that adenocarcinoma is a cancerous adenoma but I could not find the meaning of "serous" for the life of me. I now understand that it is a cancerous tumour that leaks fluid. Thank you so much!

By burcinc — On Jan 17, 2012

@ysmina-- Of course your doctor would know best. I had a pancreatic serous cystadenoma removed a year and a half ago. My doctor was very confident of the decision just as yours. It might have never turned cancerous but my doctor said that it's not worth taking the risk. He wanted to put my mind at ease by removing it and I was happy with it.

Also, there is something called a "borderline tumor." I'm not quite sure how doctors differentiate between what is borderline malignant or not. But I think they are much better at knowing what has a chance of developing into a cancerous tumor. So perhaps your doctor had a hunch about it even though he didn't disclose it to you.

I don't think that there are any negative side effects of having a benign serous cystadenoma removed. I certainly haven't experienced any so far.

By ysmina — On Jan 17, 2012

I had a laparotomy two weeks ago and my doctor discovered and removed a serous cystadenoma during surgery. I found out last week that the cystadenoma was benign. Are there any dangers of having a benign serious cystadenoma removed like this?

My doctor didn't go into details but said that the cystadenoma could have turned malignant in the future and that's why he removed it.

After reading more about serious adenomas and that they're generally benign makes me wonder if this was the best route to take though. I would like to hear from anyone who have or have had serous adenomas or cystadenomas whether benign or malignant.

What has been your experience? Do you think my doctor did the right thing by removing the cystadenoma?

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