Carcinoma is a cancer that begins in the tissue that lines your internal organs.

Carcinoma is the most common form of cancer.

Most people have heard the word in relation to skin cancer, but carcinoma is any cancer that begins in the epithelial layer of the skin surrounding the internal organs. In its early stages, carcinoma is identified as a stage 0 cancer, or carcinoma in situ, because it is found only in the layer of skin where it started.

Carcinoma can originate in and spread to any part of the body. Following are some of the most common types of carcinoma.

Skin cancer

Basal cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer formed in the deepest layer of skin from exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet radiation. It grows slowly and rarely spreads.

Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) develops on the upper layers of skin. It might start as a bump in a reddish patch of skin or have a rough, scaly feel.

This type of cancer resembles an open sore and can bleed or ooze. The first signs of SCC often are in sun-damaged areas that have freckles, wrinkles, age spots or broken blood vessels.

Kidney cancer

Renal cell carcinoma grows into a malignant mass in the lining of tubules in the kidney. Over time, the mass can obstruct the kidney’s filtering system.

Symptoms include lower back or abdominal pain, blood in the urine, unexplained weight loss and loss of appetite, anemia and/or fatigue. A CT scan or MRI is used to detect kidney abnormalities. If it is detected early and hasn’t spread to other areas of the body, renal cell carcinoma can be treated by removing the kidney, though robotic surgery can save the kidney.

“Using the surgical robotic system, we can perform partial nephrectomies, which removes just the tumor and preserves the remaining portion of the kidney,” said Andre K. Berger, MD, assistant professor of clinical urology at the USC Institute of Urology of Keck Medicine of USC. “Even if the tumor is large and invades or extends into the renal vein and the vena cava, we can still use robotic surgery to remove it.”

Liver cancer

Hepatocellular carcinoma usually starts with pain in the abdomen, unexplained weight loss and jaundice. Early stages of this cancer can be treated, but advanced stage liver cancer frequently spreads to the lungs, bone or brain.

Breast cancer

One of the most common types of breast cancer is ductal carcinoma in situ, in which cancerous cells form in the lining of the milk ducts. This is an early-stage cancer that is highly treatable, but it can spread to surround breast tissue if not addressed.

Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is cancer that starts in the ducts but then spreads to surrounding breast tissue. Over time, IDC can spread to lymph nodes and other areas of the body. When symptoms appear, your doctor will suggest a screening followed by a biopsy to determine whether the cells are malignant.

By Heidi Tyline King

As one of the eight original National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center at Keck Medicine of USC is one of the preeminent academic medical institutions in the country. If you are in the Los Angeles area, make an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or online.