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Lung adenocarcinoma is a type of non-small cell lung cancer that begins in the glands that secrete mucus. It is the most widespread type of lung cancer, accounting for about 30 percent of all cases, and is the most common lung malignancy seen in nonsmokers and adults under the age of 45.

What are the symptoms of adenocarcinoma lung cancer?

Adenocarcinoma lung cancer usually doesn’t produce obvious symptoms in its early stages. Some individuals may experience vague symptoms like fatigue and mild chest discomfort that can easily be attributed to less serious conditions. When noticeable symptoms develop, they may include:

  • A persistent cough that does not improve
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest or upper back that is unrelated to coughing
  • A cough that produces blood (sputum)
  • Voice hoarseness
  • Unexplained weight loss

How is adenocarcinoma lung cancer diagnosed?

The first potential sign of adenocarcinoma lung cancer is often a shadow-like abnormality that appears on a chest X-ray. But, an X-ray alone cannot confirm or rule out a lung cancer diagnosis. If cancer is suspected, more in-depth diagnostic tests may be performed, including:

  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scans to view more detailed images of the lungs
  • A biopsy procedure, such as a bronchoscopy, to retrieve tissue or fluid samples for evaluation
  • A sputum cytology that tests a sample of coughed-up blood for cancer cells

What causes adenocarcinoma in a lung?

Smoking is undeniably the leading cause of lung cancer. About 90 percent of all lung cancer cases are related to tobacco use, whether through smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke. Curiously, though, many people with adenocarcinoma lung cancer are not smokers.

There is still much to understand about the factors that lead to lung cancer in people who do not smoke. However, researchers have established that prolonged exposure to air pollution, asbestos, diesel exhaust, silica and radon from certain household products can increase the chances of being diagnosed with lung cancer. There are also several genetic changes, both inherited and acquired over time, that may leave certain people at a higher risk, although adenocarcinoma lung cancer isn’t typically considered to be an “inherited” disease.

What are the treatment options for adenocarcinoma lung cancer?

The ideal course of adenocarcinoma lung cancer treatment will depend on the stage of the disease at diagnosis. Other factors such as the person’s age, overall health and severity of symptoms may also influence treatment. In general, adenocarcinoma lung cancer usually has a more positive outlook than other cancers, particularly when it is diagnosed at an early stage. Most treatment plans include a personalized combination of the following:


Surgery offers the greatest chance of curing lung cancer if it is performed before the cancer has spread (metastasized) extensively. It may be used to remove a tumor, some surrounding lymph nodes, a portion of the lung or the lung in its entirety.


Chemotherapy uses cancer-fighting drugs to destroy rapidly dividing cells that may remain following surgery or have spread to other areas of the body. The medication may be swallowed or administered intravenously.

Radiation therapy

Similar to chemotherapy, radiation therapy can be given to kill cancer cells in the lungs or elsewhere in the body. It uses high-energy rays that are administered from a machine outside of the body (external radiation therapy) or implanted inside the body in small pellets (brachytherapy).

Targeted therapy

Targeted therapy uses medication to disrupt the cellular processes that feed cancer growth—for example, certain drugs are designed to block blood vessel development around tumors.


Immunotherapy uses drugs called checkpoint inhibitors to help the body’s own immune system better identify and attack cancer cells.

Our approach to adenocarcinoma lung cancer treatment

Moffitt Cancer Center’s Thoracic Oncology Program is leading the charge in lung cancer care. Patients in our program benefit from the latest treatment advancements, including minimally invasive robotic lung surgery and leading-edge immunotherapies, as well as a robust clinical trial program that gives our patients access to breakthrough therapies before they are made widely available.

If you would like to speak with an oncologist about your adenocarcinoma lung cancer treatment options, contact Moffitt at 1-888-663-3488 or complete a new patient registration form online.