What is the difference? Benign and malignant tumors
There is no good tumor. These mutated and dysfunctional masses of cells can cause pain and disfigurement, invade organs, and possibly spread throughout the body. But not all tumors are malignant or precancerous, and not all are aggressive. Benign tumors, while sometimes painful and potentially dangerous, do not pose the threat that malignant tumors do. “Malignant cells are more likely to spread [invade other organs],” says Fernando Yu Garcia, MD, a pathologist at our Hospital in Philadelphia. “They grow faster and are more likely to invade and destroy local organs.”
“Benign tumors generally do not invade. They usually push normal tissue to one side.” – Fernando Yu García, pathologist
Tumors grow as a result of a defect in the cells’ DNA, particularly in the genes that regulate the cells’ ability to control their growth. Certain damaged genes can also prevent bad cells from committing suicide to make room for new, healthy cells. “Regulating cell death is very important,” says Dr. Garcia. “If programmed cell death is disturbed, the cell does not know when it is time to die and continues. If the cell learns to prevent this and develops the ability to multiply, the tumors grow much faster.” Some of these mutations lead to rapid and uncontrolled growth, resulting in tumors that can spread rapidly and damage nearby organs and tissues. Dr. says. Other mutations are less aggressive and form slow-growing tumors that are not cancerous.“Polyps generally don’t invade,” Dr. Garcia says. They usually push the normal tissue to one side.
Many people carry benign tumors throughout their lives. Nevi, or moles, are types of benign tumors that may not need treatment at all. Other types of benign tumors include:
- Adenomas : These masses form on the surfaces of the digestive system. “A colon polyp, a classic adenoma, has only a 1 percent chance of turning into cancer during a patient’s lifetime,” says Jeffrey Weber, MD, a gastroenterologist at our hospital near Phoenix.
- Fibroids : Connective tissue tumors can be found in any organ. Fibroid tumors are called uterine fibroids, like uterine fibroids.
- Malignancy : It tends to be more aggressive than most benign tumors and can invade nearby tissues and organs. But they don’t move.
- Hemangiomas These tumors are a collection of cells from the blood vessels in the skin or internal organs. It can appear on the skin as a discoloration similar to a birthmark and often disappears on its own.
- Lipomas : These round, soft, fatty tumors are most often found on the neck or shoulders.
- Leiomyomas : The most common gynecological tumor in the United States can be found in the uterus. Its growth is driven by hormones.
How do you know that the tumor is cancerous?
The only way to ascertain whether a tumor is benign or malignant is through a pathological examination. While benign tumors rarely turn malignant, some adenomas and leiomyomas can turn into cancer and must be removed. Polyps and fibroids can also cause damage if they are allowed to grow and may require surgery or polypectomy. But while benign tumors may require some treatment, the cells that make up them share some characteristics of aggressive cancer cells, says Dr. Garcia.
“Cancer has evolved,” he says, adding that benign tumors do not develop in the same way. “A cancer cell learns not to die. Then it learns how to multiply. Then it learns how to invade. Then it learns how to spread. Cells are the building blocks of cancer.”
Keep wondering, what exactly is cancer? Learn more.