Carcinoma is a common form of cancer. It develops either on the skin or in the cells that cover internal organs. Common types include adenocarcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.

Carcinoma is a prevalent form of cancer. It accounts for 80–90% of all cancer cases.

There are multiple types of carcinoma. They each affect different parts of the body, and they vary in severity. Some types of carcinoma include adenocarcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma.

Read on to learn more about the types of carcinoma, as well as their respective symptoms and treatment options.

Doctor examining possible carcinoma samplesShare on Pinterest
ljubaphoto/Getty Images

Carcinomas start in epithelial tissues, which cover organs and line various spaces in the body. They are responsible for protecting the organs, as well as filtering, absorbing, and secreting fluids.

Because epithelial tissues cover so many parts of the body, carcinomas are able to form in a wide variety of places. Some of the most common carcinomas include:

  • basal cell carcinoma (BCC)
  • squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)
  • renal cell carcinoma (RCC)
  • ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS)
  • invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC)
  • adenocarcinoma

BCC is the most common form of skin cancer. It begins deep in the epidermis, which is the skin’s outer layer. It typically affects areas receiving a lot of sun exposure, including the face.

Although BCC usually does not spread, a person should always speak to a doctor as soon as they notice any symptoms.


Symptoms of BCC include:

  • open sores that do not heal
  • dark patches of skin
  • shiny bumps or lumps
  • raised scar-like areas


Certain factors, such as when a person receives their diagnosis, may affect treatment options. Some common types of BCC treatment include:

Risk factors

Risk factors for BCC include:

  • fair skin
  • a lot of sun exposure
  • family history of skin cancer
  • age
  • weak immune system

Learn more about basal cell carcinoma.

SCC is a type of skin cancer that grows in squamous cells. These are flat, fish-scale-like cells that line the skin and inside of hollow organs, such as the cervix and vagina.

As with BCC, SCC tends to grow in areas of the skin that are frequently in the sun.

Because SCC starts on the skin’s surface, a person often notices changes relatively quickly. This means they can start treatment earlier.


Symptoms differ depending on the location of the SCC. Some common skin symptoms include:

  • scaly and dark skin patches
  • open sores with raised borders
  • firm growths
  • spots that resemble age spots
  • wart-like growths
  • horn-like growths
  • sores growing in scars


The stage of the SSC will affect the treatment a person receives.

For SCC of the skin, treatment options include:

Risk factors

Risk factors for SSC include:

Learn more about squamous cell carcinoma.

RCC is the most common type of kidney cancer. RCC makes up about 90% of kidney cancer cases. RCC is malignant, which means it can spread to other parts of the body.

This cancer starts in the lining of the tubules. These are tubes inside the kidneys that help filter the blood and make urine.

The early stages of RCC do not have any noticeable symptoms, and it may only become evident as the tumor grows. Therefore, it is important for someone to see a doctor promptly if they experience any of the following symptoms.


As RCC progresses, a person may notice these symptoms:

  • loss of appetite
  • unexplained weight loss
  • pain in the side of the body
  • a lump in the abdomen
  • blood in the urine
  • anemia


There are five general types of treatment used to treat RCC, including:

  • radiation therapy
  • chemotherapy
  • surgery
  • immunotherapy
  • targeted therapy

Some people may also benefit from new treatments by taking part in a clinical trial.

Risk factors

Risk factors for RCC include:

Learn more about renal cell carcinoma.

DCIS is the earliest form of breast cancer. It develops in the lining of the breast ducts and is noninvasive, which means the cells do not spread to other parts of the body. Because of this, the survival rate for DCIS is high.

Although DCIS itself is noninvasive, it can in some cases turn into an invasive form of cancer.


DCIS typically does not present with any obvious symptoms. Therefore, doctors usually diagnose it from routine mammography screenings.

Sometimes, a person may experience small lumps in the breast and discharge from the nipple.


There are several treatment options for DCIS. These include:

Risk factors

Risk factors for DCIS include:

  • obesity
  • dense breasts
  • genetics
  • early menstruation

Learn more about carcinoma in situ.

IDC is the most common type of invasive breast cancer, and accounts for 80% of breast cancer cases. Like DCIS, it starts in the lining of the breast ducts. It then spreads to nearby breast tissue and the surrounding lymph nodes.


Like DCIS, some people with IDC do not present with any symptoms. Doctors may first detect the cancer during a mammography screening.

IDC symptoms may include:

  • breast lumps
  • dimpling around the nipple
  • skin darkening
  • swelling
  • nipple discharge
  • lumps in the armpit


Several factors affect IDC treatment, such as cancer stage and underlying health conditions.

Treatments may include:

  • lumpectomy
  • mastectomy
  • radiation therapy
  • chemotherapy
  • hormone therapy
  • biologically targeted therapy

Risk factors

Risk factors for IDC include:

  • obesity
  • dense breasts
  • genetics
  • early menstruation

Genetic testing for the hereditary BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations, which can cause breast cancer, is becoming more common.

It is important to note that although white females are more likely to be tested, research suggests that women of color may be just as likely to have the genetic mutations.

Learn more about breast cancer genetic testing for women of color.

Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that starts in glandular cells. These cells make and secrete, or release, important fluids in the body, such as digestive juices and mucus.

Common types of adenocarcinoma include:

  • lung cancer
  • breast cancer
  • pancreas cancer
  • colon cancer


Depending on the type of adenocarcinoma, symptoms will vary. Some symptoms of common types of adenocarcinoma include:

  • breast cancer: lump in the breast, nipple discharge
  • lung cancer: coughing up bloody mucus, chest pain, breathing problems
  • pancreatic cancer: jaundice, dark urine, weight loss, back or stomach pain
  • colon cancer: changes in bowel movements, rectal bleeding, stomach pain, unexplained weight loss


Treatment for adenosarcoma will differ depending where the cancer is in the body.

General cancer treatments include:

  • surgery
  • radiation therapy
  • chemotherapy
  • hormonal therapy
  • immunotherapy

Risk factors

General risk factors that increase the risk of these cancers include:

  • alcohol consumption
  • diet
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • hormones
  • family history of these cancers

Learn more about adenocarcinoma.

A doctor diagnoses carcinoma using a variety of diagnostic tools. These include lab tests, imaging tests, and biopsies.

Lab tests

A doctor may take urine, blood, and other fluid samples, and check them for tumor markers. However, lab tests alone cannot confirm a cancer diagnosis. A doctor would then run more tests.

Imaging tests

The purpose of imaging tests is to create detailed images of the body to detect lumps and unhealthy tissue. Doctors may order multiple different tests to get a comprehensive view of a possible tumor, including:

While imaging tests are useful in finding tumors, they have limits. They cannot determine if a tumor is cancerous or not. If a scan shows something concerning, it requires further testing.


If a scan reveals a concerning mass, a doctor will order a biopsy. This involves removing a piece of tissue or fluid from a lump. For example, this could mean removing a piece of skin from a mole.

A doctor will then conduct several tests on the sample. This will confirm whether or not the lump contains cancer cells.

Carcinoma is cancer of the body lining. This includes the body’s external lining, which is the skin, and the internal lining surrounding organs and glands.

Some carcinomas are more aggressive than others. For example, DCIS is an early, noninvasive carcinoma. It can turn into a more aggressive cancer, such as IDC, if treatment does not begin.

If cancer originates in the lining of an organ, a person may not notice symptoms right away, which will delay treatment. This is why regular screening tests, such as mammograms, are important to attend. It is also critical to contact a doctor if any concerning symptoms appear.

The variety of treatments available mean that, with early detection, the outlook for many carcinomas is good. If someone has any concerns, they should contact a doctor.