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Endocervical adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer which affects the cervix. The cervix is the lowest end of the uterus, sometimes known as the neck of the uterus. Adenocarcinoma, which develops from glandular tissue, is not as common as the most frequently occurring cervical cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, which arises from the epithelium covering the cervix. As endocervical adenocarcinoma arises in cells located inside the endocervical canal, the passage inside the cervix, the cancer is much harder to detect than squamous cell carcinoma, which develops on the surface of the cervix. Treatment may involve surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, but the specific therapy used, and the outlook after treatment, will vary depending on how far the cancer has advanced.
Adenomatous cells, from which endocervical adenocarcinoma develops, are located in the lining of the endocervical canal, where they produce mucus. While endocervical adenocarcinoma is less frequently seen than squamous cell carcinoma, it is becoming more common. Although the two main cancer types which affect the cervix develop from different cells, both kinds of cancerous growths may give rise to similar symptoms and may be treated using the same methods.
The symptoms of squamous cell carcinoma or endocervical adenocarcinoma may not be obvious, especially at first, but abnormal bleeding from the vagina is sometimes seen. This could be bleeding that occurs in a woman who has already gone through menopause, which arises after sexual intercourse, or which occurs in between periods. Occasionally, an unpleasant-smelling vaginal discharge is experienced, or there may be discomfort during sex. Sometimes a woman with endocervical adenocarcinoma does not notice any symptoms, but a cervical screening test detects signs of cancer, although screening is less effective than in the case of squamous cell carcinoma.
When endocervical adenocarcinoma is suspected, samples of cells from the endocervix may be taken and a cone biopsy may be carried out, where a small section of the cervix is removed for analysis under a microscope. Cancer staging is performed to determine the extent to which the cancer has progressed. The stage of the cancer then dictates the treatment plan. In the early stages, endocervical adenocarcinoma may be cured, and treatment generally consists of surgery, radiotherapy, or a combination of the two. Advanced cancers, which have spread beyond the cervix and the top of the vagina, can sometimes be cured using surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, as long as they have not spread to distant parts of the body.