Overview of Benign Tumor


Introduction of Benign Tumor


A benign tumor is a mass of cells (tumor) that lacks the ability to either invade neighboring tissue or metastasize (spread throughout the body). When removed, benign tumors usually do not grow back, whereas malignant tumors sometimes do. Unlike most benign tumors elsewhere in the body, benign brain tumors can be life-threatening. Benign tumors generally have a slower growth rate than malignant tumors and the tumor cells are usually more differentiated (cells have more normal features). They are typically surrounded by an outer surface (fibrous sheath of connective tissue) or stay contained within the epithelium. Common examples of benign tumors include moles and uterine fibroids.

Although benign tumors will not metastasize or locally invade tissues, some types may still produce negative health effects. The growth of benign tumors produces a "mass effect" that can compress tissues and may cause nerve damage, reduction of blood flow to an area of the body (ischaemia), tissue death (necrosis) and organ damage. The health effects of the tumor may be more prominent if the tumor is within an enclosed space such as the cranium, respiratory tract, sinus or inside bones. Tumors of endocrine tissues may overproduce certain hormones. Examples include thyroid adenomas and adrenocortical adenomas

Although most benign tumors are not life-threatening, many types of benign tumors have the potential to become cancerous (malignant) through a process known as tumor progression. For this reason and other possible negative health effects, some benign tumors are removed by surgery


One of the most important factors in classifying a tumor as benign or malignant is its invasive potential. If a tumor lacks the ability to invade adjacent tissues or spread to distant sites by metastasizing then it is benign, whereas invasive or metastatic tumors are malignant. For this reason, benign tumors are not classed as cancer. Benign tumors will grow in a contained area usually encapsulated in a fibrous  connective tissue capsule. The growth rates of benign and malignant tumors also differ; benign tumors generally grow more slowly than malignant tumors. Although benign tumors pose a lower health risk than malignant tumors, they both can be life-threatening in certain situations. There are many general characteristics which apply to either benign or malignant tumors, but sometimes one type may show characteristics of the other. For example, benign tumors are mostly well differentiated and malignant tumors are often undifferentiated. However, undifferentiated benign tumors and differentiated malignant tumors can occur. Although benign tumors generally grow slowly, cases of fast-growing benign tumors have also been documented. Some malignant tumors are mostly non-metastatic such as in the case of basal cell carcinoma. CT and chest radiography can be a useful diagnostic exam in visualizing a benign tumor and differentiating it from a malignant tumor. The smaller the tumor on a radiograph the more likely it is to be benign as 80% of lung nodules less than 2 cm in diameter are benign. Most benign nodules are smoothed radiopaque densities with clear margins but these are not exclusive signs of benign tumors.





Managing Editor

Journal of Clinical Oncology and Cancer Research