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JAMA Oncology Patient Page
July 30, 2020

Benign vs Malignant Tumors

Author Affiliations
  • 1London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust, London, United Kingdom
JAMA Oncol. Published online July 30, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.2592

A tumor (also called neoplasm) is an abnormal mass of cells in the body. It is caused by cells dividing more than normal or not dying when they should. Tumors can be classified as benign or malignant.

Benign tumors are those that stay in their primary location without invading other sites of the body. They do not spread to local structures or to distant parts of the body. Benign tumors tend to grow slowly and have distinct borders.

Benign tumors are not usually problematic. However, they can become large and compress structures nearby, causing pain or other medical complications. For example, a large benign lung tumor could compress the trachea (windpipe) and cause difficulty in breathing. This would warrant urgent surgical removal. Benign tumors are unlikely to recur once removed. Common examples of benign tumors are fibroids in the uterus and lipomas in the skin.

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