Adenocarcinoma of the Lung

Many people have been diagnosed with lung adenocarcinoma. Whatever the stage and whatever the treatment, more people are living with this disease than ever before! Here is a general overview of adenocarcinoma of the lung and the recent treatment advances that offer hope to those affected by lung cancer.

Adenocarcinoma: The Most Common Type of Lung Cancer

“Lung cancer” is a term for a group of diseases that medical professionals classify based on the cancer’s site of origin.

There are two main types of lung cancer, small cell lung cancer (SCLC) and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Of these two types, NSCLC is the most common.

Adenocarcinoma of the lung, sometimes referred to as “lung carcinoma,” is a subtype of NSCLC. In addition to adenocarcinoma, there are two other NSCLC subtypes: squamous cell carcinomas and large cell carcinomas.

Of these three NSCLC subtypes, adenocarcinomas are the most common.

In fact, adenocarcinoma of the lung is the most common form of lung cancer in the United States. It represents about 40% of all lung cancers.

Chart outlining the two main types of lung cancer—small cell and non-small cell—highlighting adenocarcinoma subtypes.

What Is Adenocarcinoma of the Lung?

Adenocarcinoma (A-deh-noh-KAR-sih-NOH-muh) is a type of cancer that forms in glandular cells (cells in our glands). Glandular cells release substances like mucus, in the body. Adenocarcinomas occur in several parts of the body, including the lungs.

Adenocarcinoma of the lung begins in glandular cells located on the outer part of the lungs, and it is more likely to be found before it has spread than other lung cancers because it tends to grow more slowly.

Who Is at Risk?

It’s important to know who is at risk for any type of lung cancer. However, certain factors make some people more at risk than others for adenocarcinoma of the lung.

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Like any lung cancer, smoking tobacco is still the number-one risk factor for lung adenocarcinoma, which occurs mainly in current or former smokers.

However, it is possible to develop lung adenocarcinoma even for those who have never smoked. Adenocarcinoma of the lung is also the most common type of lung cancer among non-smokers.

If you are interested in learning about how to quit smoking, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide many resources, including app suggestions, text messaging help, and how to find social support as you quit.

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While not widely known, lung cancer kills more women each year in the United States than even breast cancer. It is the leading cancer killer among women.

Lung adenocarcinoma is the most common type of lung cancer in women. Studies have shown that adenocarcinoma of the lung is more frequently found in women than men.

Research also suggests that there may be differences in lung cancer between women and men. While the occurrence of lung cancer in men of all ages appears to be declining, the occurrence of lung cancer in young women is rising, mainly due to increases in adenocarcinoma.

In addition, more than two-thirds of nonsmokers with lung cancer are women, most of whom have adenocarcinoma.

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Lung cancer is generally considered a disease of people who are older because most people diagnosed with lung cancer are at least 65.

However, younger people still are susceptible to lung cancer, and adenocarcinoma of the lung is more likely to occur in younger people. Of people who are under the age of 45, adenocarcinoma is the most prevalent type of lung cancer.

What Are the Symptoms of Adenocarcinoma?

Symptoms of adenocarcinoma of the lung may take a long time to appear and may be less obvious than other forms of lung cancer. Lung adenocarcinoma symptoms can include fatigue, subtle shortness of breath, or upper back and chest pain, as well as a chronic cough or coughing up blood in advanced stages of the disease.

What Treatment Options Are There?

While a lung cancer diagnosis may be scary, there are more reasons now than ever before to continue to be hopeful about treatment—new and exciting scientific discoveries have been made over the past decade!

To understand treatment options, it’s important to first understand the stages of any cancer diagnosis. A physician will typically categorize each type of cancer as occurring between stages I (1) through IV (4). Although some cancers also have a stage 0 (zero; also called “carcinoma in situ,” or CIS).

Treatment options for adenocarcinoma of the lung depend on what stage the cancer is in, as well as other factors.

Personalized Medicine

There are several innovative therapies that are considered “personalized medicine.” These treatments are specific to an individual’s own type of cancer and own body. Personalized medicine includes targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and combinations of treatments.

  • Targeted Therapies. Targeted therapies are a type of personalized medicine that specifically target genetic mutations (changes in your genes) in cancer cells. Several types of these genetic mutations have been linked to adenocarcinoma of the lung. In fact, the following mutations occur in around 70% of people with lung adenocarcinoma.

The most common genetic changes in adenocarcinoma of the lung are changes in the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) gene, the Kirsten rat sarcoma (KRAS) gene, and the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene. These advances in personalized medicine are groundbreaking. Genetic or biomarker testing is now a routine part of diagnosis and staging in people who have lung adenocarcinoma.

  • Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy is another relatively recent development that is an exciting area of treatment. Using a person’s own immune system, this treatment recognizes and attacks cancer cells.
  • Combination Treatments. Targeted therapies and immunotherapy are also being used in combination with other, more established treatments. These treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. Combination treatments are also known as “multimodal treatments.”

Other Therapies

Treatment options for lung adenocarcinoma can also include these types of treatment, which may sound more familiar:

  • Surgery. Surgery may be used to treat lung adenocarcinoma. Lung adenocarcinoma is an NSCLC. In this type of cancer, a surgeon will operate to remove the tumor. For early stage adenocarcinomas, surgery is the preferred treatment. For more advanced tumors, surgery may also be used in combination with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However, surgery may not be preferred in all early stage lung cancers. Your oncologist will be the best person to determine the best treatment for you.
  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses pills, medicines injected in your veins, or both to shrink or kill cancers. This treatment may be used alone or with radiation before or after surgery. Prepare for chemotherapy by learning what to expect.
  • Radiation Therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays (similar to X-rays) to destroy cancer cells. You can also learn what to expect during radiation therapy.

Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies conducted with people to determine whether a new treatment, drug, or device is a better treatment than the current treatment options. Sometimes doctors may use the term “clinical studies.”

Here are 2 ways to find clinical trials. Working with your doctor, you might get a jump on a new and better treatment even before it is available to others.

Search for Clinical Trials with Antidote Match™

Antidote Match™ connects people with medical research studies, in the fastest and easiest way possible. All you need to do is answer a few questions. And they will find the right trials for you. You gain access to the latest medical developments and world-class care. image

Search for Clinical Trials at is a database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies conducted around the world.

Living with Adenocarcinoma of the Lung

Hear how living with lung adenocarcinoma is becoming more and more possible each day. LCFA continues to gather and share the stories of courage, triumph, and hope of people living with lung cancer through our Hope With Answers: Living with Lung Cancer series, including our new podcast and video series!


More people are living with lung cancer.

Research advances like those highlighted in our Hope With Answers℠ video series are the key.


Learn more about what's new in lung cancer research

Finding reliable sources for information can be difficult for lung cancer patients – LCFA keeps you updated.


New lung cancer research is saving more lives.

Stand with survivors and help fund lung cancer research. By donating to LCFA, you help to fund innovative new research in the field of lung cancer treatment.