What is carcinoma?

Carcinoma is a type of cancer that forms in the skin cells as well as the tissues surrounding certain internal organs such as the kidney and liver. It is the leading type of malignancy in the breast, kidney, liver, skin, and intestinal tract.

Types of carcinoma

There are dozens of types of carcinomas, a few of the most commonly known being:

  • Basal cell carcinoma – The most common of all skin cancers, usually due to years and years of sun exposure and damage.
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma – The most common form of liver cancer; may start as a single tumor or as cancerous cells throughout the liver.
  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) – The most common type of breast cancer, affecting the milk ducts without spreading beyond the duct walls.
  • Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) – The most common type of kidney cancer, a carcinoma that forms within the lining of the kidney.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma – Another common type of skin cancer; may manifest on sun-exposed areas such as face, ear, neck, lip or hand.

Similar to other types of cancers, carcinoma may be localized (stays in one place), invasive (has spread to surrounding tissue), or metastatic (spreads throughout the body). You may also hear of carcinoma in situ (CIS), which is a pre-cancerous carcinoma that has not gone beyond the layer of skin in which it started.

Symptoms of carcinoma

Readily visible to the eye, skin carcinomas vary in shape and size. Liver and kidney carcinomas, on the other hand, may produce symptoms that mimic other types of health problems.

A basal cell carcinoma may look something like:

  • A scar that is flat, firm, yellowish
  • A raised reddish patch that's itchy
  • A pink or red splotch, translucent or pearly, with hints of blue, brown or black
  • A small pink "crater" with raised outer edges
  • An open sore

A squamous cell carcinoma may appear like:

  • A firm, red nodule
  • A flat, scaly sore
  • A raised sore on an old scar
  • A red, raised patch on or in the anus or genital area

Liver carcinoma (often referred to as hepatoma) may produce symptoms, such as:

  • Abdominal fluid retention
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling or mass

With renal cell carcinoma other types of symptoms may occur, such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Persistent back pain below the ribs
  • Pink, red or brown in your urine (from blood)
  • Unexplained weight loss

Not all symptoms indicate carcinoma, but it's important to be vigilant if you notice changes in your skin or experience these kinds of symptoms. Let your doctor know what's concerning you.


Treatment of any kind of cancer always depends on your age, your overall health, the type of cancer, and in what stage it is. Common treatments for carcinoma include surgical removal, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy.

If you or a loved one has worrisome signs or symptoms of carcinoma, don't wait until it gets worse. Get it checked out by a doctor. Our Main Line Health oncology team can test for, diagnose, and treat all forms of carcinoma.


Chemotherapy is used to fight almost every type of cancer and is part of the comprehensive treatment plan created by our oncologists.

Radiation Therapy

Specialists at Main Line Health offer a variety of radiation therapies to help treat cancerous tumors while preserving healthy tissue.

Surgical Oncology



Cancer Care

From diagnosis and throughout treatment, Main Line Health cancer specialists (oncologists) provide compassionate care for you and your loved ones through all stages of cancer treatment.


Main Line Health provides dermatology care — including effective treatments, preventative care and cancer screenings — to ages in the Philadelphia area.