Difference between malignant and benign tumor?

malignant and benign tumor


This topic looks at a question that haunts many people when a doctor give the result of a biopsy. How are these two terms defined? How are they similar, and what are the differences between benign and malignant tumors?

Definitions of Evil and Benign Terms

The term benign is used to describe both medical conditions and tumors and generally refers to a process that is not particularly dangerous. For example, a benign increase in blood pressure would be an increase that is not dangerous.
Shortness of breath can be called benign  (also called an innocent heart murmur) would be a heart murmur that is likely to get few problems in terms of disease or potential risk to death.

A benign tumor or mass is one that can be a nuisance, but it does not usually result in death. Uterine fibroids are benign and common tumors, often found in women who are on perimenopause (end of female reproductive life). They grow locally and do not have the ability to spread to other regions of the body.

The term malignant is often used synonymously with the word “dangerous” in medicine. Although it usually refers to a cancerous tumor, it can be used to describe other medical conditions.
For example, malignant hypertension (malignant blood pressure) refers to blood pressure that is dangerously high and malignant tumors (cancerous tumors) are those that have the ability to spread to other regions of the body, either locally, through the bloodstream , or through the lymphatic system.

How are malignant and benign tumors similar?

Some similarities include:

• Both can grow big. Size has no difference between these types of tumors. In fact, those found in the ovary classified as benign can have a great weight and even when they are removed.

• Both can be dangerous at times. Although benign tumors tend to be just a nuisance, they can in some cases can be fatal. One example is benign brain tumors.
When they grow in the closed space of the brain, they can put pressure on the head and destroy other structures of the brain, resulting in paralysis, speech problems, convulsions, and even death. Some benign tumors, such as pheochromocytoma, secrete hormones that can cause life-threatening symptoms as well.

• Both may appear again. After surgery, if any traces of cells are left, both benign and malignant tumors may reappear later near the region of the original tumor.

Differences between benign and malignant tumors

Growth rate – In general, malignant tumors grow much faster than benign tumors, but there are exceptions. Some malignancies (cancerous) grow very slowly and some benign tumors grow rapidly.

Metastasis – Benign tumors spread locally in only one area of ??the body, while malignant tumors can spread (metastasize) to other parts of the body through the bloodstream and lymphatic channels.Differential-Tumor-Malignant-and-Benign

Recurrence site – Although benign tumors may reappear at the site, ie near the site of the original tumor. Malignant tumors may reappear at distant sites, such as the brain, lungs, bones and liver, depending on the type of each tumor type.

“Viscosity” – Cells in benign tumors manufacture chemicals (adhesion molecules), so they stay together and do not spread. Malignant tumor cells do not produce these molecules and can rupture and “float”, releasing into other regions of the body.

Tissue Invasion – In general, malignant tumors tend to invade nearby tissues, while benign tumors do not (although they can grow and cause great damage to nearby organs, creating pressure on them).

A very simple way to think about this is to imagine a benign tumor as having a wall or borderline (literally, a fibrous sheath that surrounds the tumor). This limit allows the tumor to expand and push (move) nearby tissues, but does not allow the tumor to penetrate nearby tissues.

On the other hand, imagine the cancer as having “fingers” or “tentacles” that can reach into the nearby tissues. In fact, the Latin word cancer derives from the word crab, used to describe the crablike or fingerlike, projections of cancerous tumors.

Cellular Appearance – Under a microscope, cells that are benign often look very different from those that are malignant. One of these differences is that the nucleus of the cancerous cell is generally larger and appears darker due to a large amount of DNA.



Effective treatments – Benign tumors can usually be removed only with surgery, while cancerous (malignant) tumors often require chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These additional treatments are needed to try to reach cancer cells that have spread beyond the region of the tumor or are left behind after surgery to remove a tumor.


Likelihood of recurrence – Benign tumors rarely occur after surgery, while malignant tumors recur much more commonly. Surgery to remove a malignant tumor is more difficult than surgery for a benign tumor. Using the above fingerlike analogy, it is much easier to remove a tumor that has a clear fibrous boundary than a tumor that has penetrated nearby tissues with these finger-like projections. If the cells are left along these fingers, the tumor is more likely to return.

Systemic effects – Malignant tumors are more likely to have systemic, or total body, effects than benign tumors. Due to the nature of these tumors, symptoms such as fatigue and foot loss are common. Several types of malignant tumors also secrete substances that cause effects on the body in addition to those caused by the original tumor.

An example of this is paraneoplastic syndrome caused by some cancers, resulting in a wide range of physical symptoms of hypercalcemia (elevation of calcium in the blood) for Cushing’s syndrome (which in turn causes symptoms such as face, stretch marks and weakened bones).

Number of deaths – Benign tumors cause about 13,000 deaths per year in the United States. The number of deaths that can be blamed for malignant (cancerous) tumors is over 575,000.

READ MORE:The difference between cyst and tumors

Areas of Confusion

There are times when it is difficult to know if a tumor is benign or malignant, this can be very confusing and scary if it is you who are living with one of them. Doctors often distinguish between cancerous and noncancerous tumors under the microscope, and sometimes the differences are very subtle. Sometimes doctors have to use other clues, such as where the tumor is located, its rate of growth, and other tests, to try to make the distinction.


Other terms that can be used

• Tumor: A tumor refers to a growth that can be benign or malignant. It is essentially a growth of tissue that has no useful purpose for the body, and instead can be harmful.

• Mass: The mass can also be benign or malignant. In general, the term mass is used to describe a growth that is greater than or equal to 3 cm (1 ½ inch) in diameter.

• Nodule: A nodule can also be benign or malignant. In general, the term nodule is used to describe tumors that may be less than or equal to 3 cm (1 ½ inches) in diameter.

• Neoplasia: literally translated as “new tissue”, the term “neoplasia” is generally used as a synonym for tumor, and these tumors may be benign or malignant. “


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