Benign Tumors

Tumors come in two varieties: benign and malignant. Of the two types, benign tumors are the type a person should chose if given the option. Benign tumors do not come back once removed and don’t spread to other parts of the body. 

Tumors in general are masses of tissue that have no actual useful purpose. They are known for stripping healthy tissues of nutrients and other vital resources. Benign tumors are slow growing creatures that are much less likely to cause significant health problems requiring chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Just because they do not result in serious forms of cancer does not mean that a benign tumor can be ignored. Many tumors start out as benign and then become malignant.

Cancer tumors have three general properties. Benign tumors lack all of these properties and so are not really cancerous. The properties of any cancerous tumor are that it:

1. Grows at an unlimited pace in an aggressive manner

2. Invades surrounding tissues

3. Metastasizes

Moles and uterine fibroids are common examples of benign tumors. A word of caution with moles though as they frequently are present on individuals that are more at risk for skin cancer.

Giving a tumor the label “benign” implies that the tumor is a mild and non-progressive disease. Many types of benign tumors are really harmless to health. Some neoplasms, however, that are called “benign tumors” because they lack the invasiveness of a truly cancerous tumor can still produce negative health effects. Just because a tumor is benign doesn’t mean that it will have zero health effects. One of the most common effects of a benign tumor is a “mass effect” in which vital organs like blood vessels can be compressed.

Benign tumors are usually confined to a specific area. This inhibits their ability to become malignant or even act in a malignant manner. While this is generally true, benign tumors should be taken seriously as many types have the potential to become malignant.

When the benign tumor undergoes additional genetic changes, it can become malignant. When a tumor changes, the cells themselves show specific abnormalities in their cell maturation process and in their  appearance. This is generally called dysplasia. 

If a benign tumor is of a type that is not likely to become malignant, it might not need treatment at all. When it is in a location where there is a history of benign tumors becoming malignant, most doctors will remove them. Surgery is the most common way of removing benign tumors. This type typically doesn’t respond to chemotherapy or radiation.  

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