Growths: Benign, Premalignant and Malignant


MNT Knowledge Center

A tumor, also known as a neoplasm, is an abnormal mass of tissue which may be solid or fluid-filled.

A tumor does not mean cancer – tumors can be benign (not cancerous), pre-malignant (pre-cancerous), or malignant (cancerous).

There are various kinds of growths and a number of names on their behalf – their names usually reflect their shape and also the type of tissue they seem in. Quite simply, a tumor is really a type of lump or swelling, it doesn’t always pose any adverse health threat.

Contents of this article:

  1. What is a tumor?
  2. Benign tumors
  3. Premalignant tumors
  4. Malignant tumors
  5. Tumor biopsy procedures
  6. The naming of tumors and cancers

Fast facts on tumors

Here are some key points about tumors. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Tumor are not necessarily cancerous.
  • Benign tumors cannot spread.
  • Fibroids are benign tumors that grow on fibrous or connective tissue.
  • Lipomas consist of adipose tissue.
  • A premalignant tumor is one that is not yet cancerous but is about to be.
  • Cancerous tumors are referred to as malignant.
  • Metastasis is the term used to describe the process of a tumor spreading.
  • An excisional biopsy involves removing an entire lump or surrounding area.

What is a tumor?

When doctors make use of the term tumor they’re speaking generically and never about how big the lesion. Full of usually describes a lump that is a minimum of 20 mm (.787 inches) across at its largest point, while a nodule is under 20 mm at its largest point.

Tumor dimensions can vary enormously. In The month of january 2012, Nguyen Duy Hai, a 32-year-old Vietnamese man went through a 12-hour operation to get rid of a 200-pound tumor from his leg. Dr. McKay McKinnon, lead surgeon, had ranked the prosperity of the operation just 50%. The surgery would be a success.

Cancer stem cells may play a significant role in tumor growth, three studies printed within the journals Nature and Science revealed in August 2012. Researchers believe cancer may have its very own stem cells that effect on the regrowth of growths. They added when further studies confirm their findings, the way you treat cancerous growths may change significantly.

Benign tumors

A benign tumor (benign neoplasm) cannot metastasize – it cannot spread. Examples include uterine fibroids and moles. “Benign” means it is non-progressive, it remains as it is.

Most benign growths aren’t dangerous to human health. While they aren’t cancerous, some might press against nerves or bloodstream ships and cause discomfort or any other unwanted effects. Benign growths of endocrine tissue may lead to the unnecessary manufacture of some the body’s hormones.

Examples of benign tumors include:


Adenomas are growths that arise from glandular epithelial tissue – epithelial tissue may be the thin membrane that covers glands, organs along with other structures in your body. A polyp within the colon is a kind of adenoma. Other good examples include pituitary adenoma, adrenocortical adenoma, basal cell adenoma, bile duct adenoma, chromophobe adenoma, follicular adenoma, hepatocellular adenoma, and nipple adenoma (there are lots of more).

Although adenomas aren’t cancerous, they are able to change and be so they are known as adenocarcinomas.

Fibroids (fibromas)

Fibroids (fibromas) are benign growths that grow on ” floating ” fibrous or ligament associated with a body organ. Uterine fibroids are typical. Uterine fibroids may cause vaginal bleeding, pelvic discomfort or discomfort, and bladder control problems.

A soft fibroma of the eyelid
A soft fibroma of the eyelid. Photo credit: Oliver Riesen

The fibroma durum (hard fibroma) consists of many fibers and couple of cells. The fibroma molle (soft fibroma) consists of several loosely connected cells and fewer fibroid tissue. Soft fibroma is generally based in the underarms, groin, neck and eye lids.

There are lots of kinds of fibromas, for example angiofibroma, cystic fibroma (fibroma cysticum), myxofibroma (fibroma myxomatodes), nonossifying fibroma, ossifying fibroma, cemento-ossifying fibroma, pleomorphic fibroma, fibroma of tendon sheath nuchal fibroma, chondromyxoid fibroma, desmoplasmic fibroma, collagenous fibroma, and perifollicular fibroma.

Some fibromas may cause signs and symptoms and could require surgery. Rarely, fibroids can alter and finally become cancerous, they’re then known as fibrosarcomas.


A hemangiomas on the scalp of a child

Hemangiomas are benign growths featuring its an accumulation of a lot of bloodstream cells. They can often be located on the top of skin and therefore are in modern language known as strawberry marks. Nearly all hemangiomas appear at birth and progressively disappear after a little several weeks or years.

Hemangiomas really don’t require any treatment. When they modify the patient’s capability to eat, hear or see, the physician may recommend treatment with adrenal cortical steroids. When the patient has ended ten years old, they’re more generally removed today using laser surgery.


Lipomas are the most typical type of soft-tissue tumor. Lipomas contain adipose tissue (fat cells). Many of them are extremely small, painless, soft to touch, and usually movable. They’re more prevalent among people aged 40 years. Experts disagree on whether lipomas can alter and be cancerous (malignant).

There are lots of types of lipomas, for example angiolipoleiomyoma, angiolipoma, chondroid lipoma, corpus callosum lipoma, hibernoma, intradermal spindle cell lipoma, neural fibrolipoma, pleomorphic lipomas, and superficial subcutaneous lipoma (the most typical type, found just beneath the surface of the skin).

On the next page, we look at premalignant and malignant tumors. On the final page we discuss tumor biopsy procedures and the common prefixes used in naming tumors and cancers.


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Premalignant tumors

A premalignant or precancerous tumor is one that is not yet malignant, but is about to become so.

Examples of premalignant growths include:

  • Actinic keratosis – also known as senile keratosis or solar keratosis is a premalignant growth consisting of crusty, scaly and thick patches of skin. Fair-skinned people are more susceptible to these types of growths, especially those who are exposed to sunlight (it is linked to solar damage).

    Actinic keratoses are seen as potentially premalignant because a number of them progress to squamous cell carcinoma. Doctors usually recommend treating them because of this. There is a 20% risk that untreated lesions eventually become cancerous. Continuous sun exposure increases the risk of malignancy.

  • Dysplasia of the cervix – the normal cells lining the cervix of the uterus change. The growth can be premalignant, a prelude to cervical cancer. Cervical dysplasia is diagnosed with a PAP smear. According to the National Institutes of Health, USA, about 5% of PAP smears detect the presence of cervical dysplasia. They are more common in women aged 25 to 35. They may be removed with Cryotherapy (freezing), or conization (the cone of tissue from the cervix is removed).
  • Metaplasia of the lung – the growths occur in the bronchi, tubes that carry air from the windpipe into the lung. The bronchi are lined with glandular cells, which can change and become squamous cells. Metaplasia of the lung is most commonly caused by smoking.
  • Leukoplakia – thick, white patches form on the gums, bottom of the mouth, insides of the cheeks, and less commonly on the tongue. They cannot be scraped off easily. Experts believe tobacco smoking and/or chewing is the main cause. Although Leukoplakia is rarely dangerous, a small percentage are premalignant and can eventually become cancerous. Many mouth cancers occur next to areas of leukoplakia.

    If smokers quit, the condition usually clears up. Quitting both alcohol and tobacco together has better results. The patches can be removed using laser, a scalpel or a cold probe that freezes the cancer cells (cryoprobe).

Malignant tumors

[Dividing cancer cells]
Malignant tumors divide and spread rapidly, colonizing new areas.

Malignant tumors are cancerous tumors, they tend to become progressively worse, and can potentially result in death. Unlike benign tumors, malignant ones grow fast, they are ambitious, they seek out new territory, and they spread (metastasize).

The abnormal cells that form a malignant tumor multiply at a faster rate. Experts say that there is no clear dividing line between cancerous, precancerous and non-cancerous tumors – sometimes determining which is which may be arbitrary, especially if the tumor is in the middle of the spectrum. Some benign tumors eventually become premalignant, and then malignant.

Metastasis – malignant tumors invade nearby cells, and then the cells near those, and spread. Some cells can break off from the tumor and spread to various parts of the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system, and establish themselves anywhere in the body, and form new malignant tumors. Metastasis is the process by which cancer cells spread from their primary site to distant locations in the human body. For example, a patient may have started off with melanoma (skin cancer) which metastasized in their brain.

The cancer cells that metastasize are the same as the original ones. If a lung cancer spreads to the liver, those cancer cells that grow in the liver are lung cancer cells which have acquired the ability to invade other organs.

There are different types of tumors, which are made up of specific types of cancer cells:

  • Carcinoma – these tumors are derived from the skin or tissues that line body organs (epithelial cells). Carcinomas can be, for example, of the stomach, prostate, pancreas, lung, liver, colon or breast. Many of the most common tumors are of this type, especially among older patients.
  • Sarcoma – these are tumors that start off in connective tissue, such as cartilage, bones, fat and nerves. They originate in the mesenchymal cells outside the bone marrow. The majority of sarcoma tumors are malignant. They are called after the cell, tissue or structure they arise from, for example fibrosarcoma, liposarcoma, angiosarcoma, chondrosarcoma, and osteosarcoma.
  • Lymphoma/Leukemia – cancer arises from the blood forming (hematopoietic) cells that originate in the marrow and generally mature in the blood or lymph nodes. Leukemia accounts for 30% of childhood cancers. Leukemia is thought to be the only cancer where tumors are not formed.
  • Germ cell tumor – these are tumors that arise from a germ cell, pluripotent cells (cells than can turn into any kind of cell). Germ cell tumors most commonly present in the ovary (dysgerminoma) or testicle (seminoma). The majority of testicular tumors are germ cell ones. Less commonly, germ cell tumors may also appear in the brain, abdomen or chest.
  • Blastoma – tumors derived from embryonic tissue or immature “precursor” cells. These types of tumors are more common in children than adults. Blastoma is often the root word used in longer ones that describe tumors, for example, medulloblastoma and glioblastoma are kinds of brain tumors, retinoblastoma is a tumor in the retina of the eye, osteoblastoma is a type of bone tumor, while a neuroblastoma is a tumor found in children of neural origin.

On the final page, we look at tumor biopsy procedures and the common prefixes used in naming tumors and cancers.


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Tumor biopsy procedures

To decide whether a tumor is malignant or not, a sample must be taken by a surgeon or an interventional radiologist and sent to the laboratory and examined under a microscope by a pathologist – the sample is called a biopsy. There are three different types of biopsies:

  • Excisional biopsy – the entire lump or suspicious area is surgically removed.

    When the specimen plus some surrounding uninvolved tissue is sent to the lab, the pathologist determines the extent of surgical margins around it to see whether the cancer spread beyond the area biopsied. Clear margins, also known as negative margins means that none of the tumor has spread beyond the edges of the biopsied specimen. Positive margins means the tumor has grown beyond the biopsied specimen. Sometimes a wider excision may be needed if the diagnosis is uncertain.

  • Incisional (core) biopsy – a sample is surgically removed from the tumor
  • Needle aspiration biopsy – fluid or a sample of tissue is removed with a needle.

A study carried out by scientists from the Technical University of Munich in 2012 stressed that for a proper diagnosis, samples need to be taken from various parts of the tumor.

The naming of tumors and cancers

[Hand writing the word melanoma]
Myeloma is a cancer of the bone marrow.

Cancer words usually have a prefix (start of the word) which describes which part of the body is involved, while the suffix (end of the word) tells you what type of cancer it is.

For example, the prefix adeno refers to a gland, from which you get full words like adenosarcoma or adenocarcinoma.

Below are some common prefixes used in cancer terms:

  • Uro- (bladder)
  • Retino- (eye)
  • Osteo- (bone)
  • Neuro- (brain)
  • Myo- (muscle)
  • Myelo- (bone marrow)
  • Melano- (pigment cell)
  • Lympho- (white blood cell)
  • Lipo- (fat)
  • Hepato- (liver)
  • Hemangio- (blood vessels)
  • Erythro- (red blood cell)
  • Chondro- (cartilage)
  • Adeno- (gland).

Possible suffixes that can be added to the prefixes above are sarcoma, carcinoma, or blastoma.

Recent developments on tumors and cancer from MNT news

Common therapy for cancer of the prostate may raise chance of Alzheimer’s

Androgen deprivation therapy or ADT – a typical therapy for cancer of the prostate that lowers quantity of a male hormone testosterone – can also increase the chance of developing Alzheimer’s afterwards.

Melanoma treatment may need nanotech drug delivery

Once melanoma starts to spread towards the relaxation from the body – usually with the the lymphatic system – an individual’s likelihood of survival reduce significantly. Now new research, brought by Or Condition College in Portland, has revealed a 3-drug delivery system using nanoparticles that migrate towards the lymph nodes and therefore increase the potency of the anticancer agents.

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