Adenocarcinoma of the Cervix

Last Modified: January 30, 2005


Dear OncoLink "Ask The Experts,"

Through an irregular Pap smear, my daughter was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma. We can't locate much information on this type of cancer. Can you help? This tumor is supposedly very rare but how treatable? Where does it originate and what are chances of spreading to other areas?



Christina S. Chu, MD, Assistant Professor of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at the University of Pennsylvania Health System, responds:

Adenocarcinoma on Pap smear needs to be confirmed by biopsy, since sometimes, a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma may only turn out to be adenocarcinoma in situ (tumor not growing into the substance of the cervix--which has very different implications than cancer which has invaded the underlying tissues).  With a diagnosis of adenocarcinoma on Pap, the source of tumor may be from the glandular cells of the uterus (endometrial cancer) or from the glandular cells of the cervix (cervical adenocarcinoma).  Often, the pathologists interpreting the Pap test can tell which source they believe the tumor is arising from.  The cervix is composed of two different types of cells.  The cells on the outside surface are squamous cells.  The vast majority of cervical cancers arise in these cells.  However, a small number of cancers arise in the glandular cells of the cervix, which are the cells that line the inner opening of the cervix.  Adenocarcinomas of the cervix are generally treated in the same fashion as squamous cancers of the cervix.  The chances of spread to other areas are related to how big the tumor is at the time of diagnosis.