Tumors–also known as neoplasms–are abnormal collections of cells that form because cells don’t die when they should, or multiply when they shouldn’t.1
Benign tumors are noncancerous and do not spread to distant parts of the body. They may or may not cause symptoms.
Malignant tumors are cancerous and often become locally invasive, infecting nearby tissue, or metastasize, spreading to different organs and body systems. They require medical interventions such as surgical removal, radiation, chemotherapy, and systemic therapy, and can be life-threatening if left undetected or untreated.
Borders. The borders of a benign tumor are smooth, regular, and distinct. There is a clear shape to them, and you can tell where they begin and end. By contrast, malignant tumors have fuzzy, spiky, or otherwise irregular borders, and may lack distinct shape. Diagnostic medical imaging tools like ultrasound, MRI, and mammograms are able to capture highly detailed pictures of a tumor’s borders, especially when contrast dye is used.
Growth and spread. Benign tumors can grow in size, but they won’t spread (metastasize) to other parts of your body or invade adjacent tissue. Benign tumors that grow too large become problematic when they start encroaching on neighboring internal structures or causing troubling symptoms. Malignant tumors are invasive, grow quickly in comparison to benign tumors, and often spread beyond their original location to other parts of the body.
Tumor symptoms can vary by type, severity, location, etc. Some symptoms may indicate your body is fighting a malignancy (though any of these can have other explanations), such as:2
Tumors vary by location, size, type, cell behavior, and many other factors. Some brain tumors are benign; others are malignant. There are hundreds of known tumor types, so these lists are by no means exhaustive. However, they do cover many common examples of tumors that are regularly diagnosed with medical imaging scans.
Certain tumors fall in a classification middle ground known as “precancerous”. These tumors are technically benign, but can become malignant if left untreated. Preventive medicine plays a very important role in early detection of the following precancerous conditions:
Medical imaging scans can detect masses that may require further testing. Tumors are ultimately diagnosed after a biopsy specimen is examined by an expert pathologist.
If symptoms have you worried or your doctor has recommended a diagnostic scan, head over to scan.com’s scan search tool to look for scan locations near you.
clevelandclinic.org: Benign Tumor
cancer.org: Signs and Symptoms of Cancer
cancerresearchuk.org: Types of cancer
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