Signet Ring Cell Adenocarcinoma Symptoms and Types

Signet ring cell adenocarcinoma of the colon and rectum is a common colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer is the third most common type of cancer in men and women in the United States . Deaths from colorectal cancer have decreased with the use of colonoscopies and fecal occult blood tests, which check for blood in the stool.

Man throwing up in toilet with glass of water in foreground
Tom Merton / OJO Images / Getty Images

Colorectal cancer comes in many forms, including adenocarcinoma, leiomyosarcoma, lymphoma, melanoma and neuroendocrine tumors. Adenocarcinoma is the most common type of colorectal cancer and has two subtypes, signet ring cell and mucinous. This article discusses signet ring cell adenocarcinoma.

What Is an Adenocarcinoma?

"Adeno-" is a prefix that means "gland." In general, glands secrete things and are classified as endocrine or exocrine. Endocrine glands secrete things into the bloodstream, like hormones. Exocrine glands secrete things that go outside of the body, like mucus and sweat.

A carcinoma is a malignant tumor that starts in epithelial tissue. Put the two words together and you get "adenocarcinoma," which means a malignant tumor in epithelial tissue, specifically in a gland.

The term "signet ring cell" describes the appearance of cancer. To look at cancer cells under a microscope, you have to stain and dehydrate them. Because signet ring cell adenocarcinomas have so much fat in them, once they're dehydrated, the nucleus gets pushed all the way over to one side. This makes the cell look kind of like a ring under the microscope.

Signet ring cell adenocarcinomas are considered more aggressive than regular adenocarcinomas and are harder to successfully treat.

Other Types of Colorectal Cancer

Symptoms of Colorectal Cancer

  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • A feeling that your bowel does not empty completely
  • Blood (either bright red or very dark) in your stool
  • Stools that are narrower than usual
  • Frequent gas pains or cramps, or feeling full or bloated
  • Weight loss with no known reason
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting

Because you may not have symptoms at first, it's important to have screening tests. Everyone over 50 should get screened. Tests include colonoscopy and tests for blood in the stool. Treatments for colorectal cancer include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Cancer Society. Key Statistics for Colorectal Cancer.

  2. National Cancer Institute. Colorectal Cancer - Patient Version.

  3. American Cancer Society. Signs and Symptoms of Colon Cancer.

Additional Reading