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A benign tumor (benign neoplasm) cannot metastasize – it cannot spread. Examples include uterine fibroids and moles. “Benign” means it is non-progressive, it remains as it is.
A benign tumor is not a malignant tumor, which is cancer. It does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body the way cancer can. In most cases, the outlook with benign tumors is very good. But benign tumors can be serious if they press on vital structures such as blood vessels or nerves.
Most benign tumors are not harmful to human health. Even though they are not cancerous, some may press against nerves or blood vessels and cause pain or other negative effects. Benign tumors of endocrine tissues may result in the excessive production of some hormones.
Common types of Benign tumors
Adenomas are tumors that arise from glandular epithelial tissue – epithelial tissue is the thin membrane that covers glands, organs and other structures in the body. A polyp in the colon is a type of adenoma. Other examples include pituitary adenoma, adrenocortical adenoma, basal cell adenoma, bile duct adenoma, chromophobe adenoma, follicular adenoma, hepatocellular adenoma, and nipple adenoma (there are many more).
Although adenomas are not cancerous, they can change and become so; then they are called adenocarcinomas.
Fibroids (fibromas) are benign tumors that grow on fibrous or connective tissue of any organ in the body. Uterine fibroids are common. Uterine fibroids can cause vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain or discomfort, and urinary incontinence.
The fibroma durum (hard fibroma) is made up of many fibers and few cells. The fibroma molle (soft fibroma) is made up of several loosely connected cells and less fibroid tissue. Soft fibroma is usually found in the armpits, groin, neck and eyelids.
There are many types of fibromas, such as angiofibroma, cystic fibroma (fibroma cysticum), myxofibroma (fibroma myxomatodes), nonossifying fibroma, ossifying fibroma, cemento-ossifying fibroma, pleomorphic fibroma, fibroma of tendon sheath nuchal fibroma, chondromyxoid fibroma, desmoplasmic fibroma, collagenous fibroma, and perifollicular fibroma.
Some fibromas can cause symptoms and may require surgical removal. Rarely, fibroids can change and eventually become cancerous, they are then called fibrosarcomas.
Hemangiomas are benign tumors which consists of a collection of too many blood cells. They can sometimes be seen on the surface of the skin and are colloquially called strawberry marks. The majority of hemangiomas appear at birth and gradually go away after some months or years.
Hemangiomas do not usually require any treatment. If they affect the patient’s ability to eat, hear or see, the doctor may recommend treatment with corticosteroids. If the patient is over 10 years of age, they are more commonly removed today using laser surgery.
Lipomas are the most common form of soft-tissue tumor. Lipomas consist of adipose tissue (fat cells). Most of them are very small, painless, soft to the touch, and generally movable. They are more common among people aged 40+ years. Experts disagree on whether lipomas can change and become cancerous (malignant).
There are many kinds of lipomas, such as angiolipoleiomyoma, angiolipoma, chondroid lipoma, corpus callosum lipoma, hibernoma, intradermal spindle cell lipoma, neural fibrolipoma, pleomorphic lipomas, and superficial subcutaneous lipoma (the most common type, found just below the skin’s surface).
Causes of Benign Tumors
What causes a benign tumor to form? Often the cause is unknown. But the growth of a benign tumor might be linked to:
- Environmental toxins, such as exposure to radiation
- Local trauma or injury
- Inflammation or infection
Symptoms of Benign tumors
Not all tumors, cancerous or benign, have symptoms.
Depending on the tumor’s location, numerous symptoms could affect the function of important organs or the senses. For example, if you have a benign brain tumor, you may experience headaches, vision trouble, and fuzzy memory.
If the tumor is close to the skin or in an area of soft tissue such as the abdomen, the mass may be felt by touch.
Depending on the location, possible symptoms of a benign tumor include:
- discomfort or pain
- loss of appetite
- night sweats
- weight loss
Benign tumors may be large enough to detect, particularly if they’re close to the skin. However, most aren’t large enough to cause discomfort or pain. They can be removed if they are. Lipomas, for example, may be large enough to detect, but are generally soft, movable, and painless. Some skin discoloration may be evident in the case of benign tumors that appear on the skin, such as nevi. Anything that looks abnormal should be evaluated by a doctor.
Treatment of Benign tumors
In many cases, benign tumors need no treatment. Doctors may simply use “watchful waiting” to make sure they cause no problems. But treatment may be needed if symptoms are a problem. Surgery is a common type of treatment for benign tumors. The goal is to remove the tumor without damaging surrounding tissues. Other types of treatment may include medication or radiation.