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Not Similar! This is the Difference between Malignant Tumors and Benign Tumors

Some people often find it difficult to distinguish between malignant and benign tumors. In fact, some consider the two things to be the same thing. In order not to be mistaken, see the full explanation of the difference between benign and malignant (cancer) tumors below.

Recognizing the Difference between Malignant Tumors and Benign Tumors

What is a Tumor?

Tumor is a lump and when the lump is composed of normal cells; means it’s tame. If a lump is made up of abnormal cells and grows uncontrollably, it is a cell cancer or often also called a malignant tumor.

In order to determine whether the tumor is benign or cancerous, the doctor can take a sample of cells with a biopsy procedure. Then the results of the biopsy require analysis under a microscope by a pathologist, a doctor who specializes in laboratory science.

Difference between Malignant and Benign Tumors

Although most malignant tumors grow and develop rapidly; While most benign tumors are not, there are slow growing cancerous tumors and fast growing noncancerous tumors, the main differences between the two types of tumors are clear and consistent.

The following is a summary of the differences between benign and malignant tumors:

Benign Tumors Malignant Tumor
Tumor cells tend not to spread Cancer cells can spread (metastasize)
Most cells grow slowly It usually grows quite fast
Does not attack nearby networks Often invades the basement membrane that surrounds nearby healthy tissue
Does not metastasize to other parts of the body Spread via the bloodstream or lymphatic system
Tends to have clear boundaries It can reappear after removal (surgery), sometimes in an area different from the original site
The shape, chromosomes, and DNA of the cells appear normal when examined under a microscope Cells with abnormal chromosomes and DNA are characterized by large, dark nuclei. It may have an abnormal shape
Does not secrete hormones or other substances secrete substances that cause fatigue and weight loss (paraneoplastic syndromes)
It may not need treatment if it is not causing health problems Requires aggressive treatment, including surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy drugs
Cannot recur if removed or requires further treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy Malignant tumors can recur after being treated.

Benign Tumors (Non Cancer)

If the cells are not cancerous, the tumor is benign. Thus, these tumors will not invade nearby tissue or spread to other areas of the body.

Benign tumors are actually less of a cause for concern unless they are pressing on nearby tissue, nerves, or blood vessels and causing damage. An example of a benign tumor is fibroids in the uterus or lipoma.

Therefore, it is important to know the difference between malignant and benign tumors to help prevent tumor growth and get the right treatment.

Benign tumors may require surgical removal, because otherwise they can grow very large and sometimes weigh several pounds.

Tumor growths can be dangerous when they grow in the brain and crowd out normal structures in the confined spaces of the skull. Benign tumors can press on vital organs or block ducts.

Some types of benign tumors such as intestinal polyps is precancerous and removed for prevention so that it does not become malignant. Benign tumor growths usually do not recur after removal, but if they do recur, they are usually in the same place.

Also Read: 10 Types of Benign Tumors and Symptoms You Should Know

Malignant Tumor (Cancer)

Malignant tumors form from cancer cells and can invade surrounding tissues. Some cancer cells can enter the bloodstream or lymph nodes, where they can spread to other tissues in the body.

Cancer can occur and grow anywhere in the body, including the breast, skin, intestines, lungs, reproductive organs, and blood.

For example, breast cancer can start in the breast tissue and can spread to the lymph nodes in the armpit if it is not detected and treated promptly. After breast cancer spreads to lymph nodes, cancer cells spread to other areas of the body such as the liver or bones.

Breast cancer cells can eventually form tumors in these locations. A biopsy of this tumor may show characteristics of breast cancer tissue.

Also Read: Can Mothers with Benign Tumors in the Breast Breastfeed?

Can Benign Tumors Become Malignant?

Several types of benign tumors very rarely turn into malignant tumors. However, some types, such as adenomatous polyps (adenomas) in the colon, have a higher risk of turning into cancer.

This is why polyps (benign ones) are removed during a colonoscopy. Removing polyps is one way to prevent colon cancer.

It’s not clear whether a tumor is benign or malignant, and doctors may use several different factors to diagnose a tumor. The patient may have an uncertain diagnosis.

It is possible that the biopsy procedure may detect precancerous cells or miss areas where more cancer cells are found. In this case, a benign tumor can turn into a malignant one when it grows and develops.

How to Detect Tumors

After knowing the difference between benign tumors and malignant tumors, anyone may be able to recognize the characteristics of tumors that appear in the body, for example, unusual lumps in the body. But to confirm that it’s a tumor, see a doctor as soon as possible.

Sometimes patients may not know they have a tumor. It can be detected during routine screening or checkups, or during tests for some other symptoms.

After a physical exam, the doctor may use one or more imaging tests to help confirm a diagnosis, including:

  • X-ray.
  • Ultrasound (ultrasound).
  • CT scan (computerized tomography scan).
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).

Blood tests are another way to help detect tumors. But a biopsy is the only way to confirm the presence of cancer. A biopsy is done by taking a tissue sample.

The location of the tumor will determine whether the patient needs a needle biopsy or other methods, such as colonoscopy or surgery.

The tissue sample is then sent to a laboratory and examined under a microscope. After the examination, the doctor will receive a pathology report. This report can tell the doctor whether the tissue sample is benign, precancerous, or malignant.

  1. Fayed, Lisa. 2021. Differences Between a Malignant and Benign Tumor. (Accessed February 24, 2023)
  2. Pietrangelo, Ann. 2019. Benign and Malignant Tumors: How Do They Differ?. (Accessed February 24, 2023)
  3. Sinha, Tarini. 2018. Tumors: Benign and Malignant. (Accessed February 24, 2023)

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