Benign Tumours-Not All Tumours Are Cancerous

Understanding Benign Tumours - Not All Tumours Are Cancerous

What comes to mind when someone says “tumor”? Cancer right? But do you know that not all tumors are cancerous? The non-cancerous tumors are known as benign tumors, which are abnormal growths that do not pose a threat to the body. They are not invasive, meaning they do not spread to other parts of the body and are usually not life-threatening. They are typically slow-growing and can often be removed without causing harm.

On the other hand, malignant or cancerous tumors are abnormal growths that can invade and destroy surrounding tissue and organs and also spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream or lymph system. They are often fast-growing and can be more difficult to treat than benign tumors. 

While benign or non-malignant tumors are not life-threatening, they can still cause discomfort or other symptoms and should be removed if they are causing problems. In contrast, malignant tumors require prompt and aggressive treatment, such as surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy, to prevent them from spreading and causing more damage to the body.

Types of benign tumors

Benign tumors are usually classified based on the location of the tumor. The different types of benign tumors are as follows:

Adenomas are a type of benign tumor that develops from glandular cells. They can occur in various parts of the body, including the colon, thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands. Thyroid adenomas can cause hyperthyroidism, and pituitary adenomas can cause hormonal imbalances and symptoms depending on the size and location.

Lipomas are benign tumors composed of fat cells that are most commonly found on the head, neck, back, and shoulders. They are soft to the touch, mobile, usually painless, and typically slow-growing. They can range in size from a few millimetres to several centimetres.

Myomas, also known as fibroids, are benign tumors that develop in the muscle tissue of the uterus. They are the most common type of benign tumor of the uterus and can range in size from very small to large enough to significantly enlarge the uterus. They are typically slow-growing and are most often found in women of childbearing age.

Nevi, also known as moles, are benign tumors that develop in the cells that give colour to the skin. They can appear anywhere on the skin and can be different colours, shapes, and sizes. They are typically benign, but in rare cases, they can become malignant. They are usually monitored and removed if they change in size, shape, or colour. 

Hemangiomas are benign tumors that develop from blood vessels and can appear anywhere in the body. They can be red, blue, or purple in colour, and they are usually benign, but they can cause problems if they are located near vital organs. 

Meningiomas are benign tumors that develop in the meninges, the protective covering of the brain and spinal cord. These are benign tumors in brain meninges. They can cause symptoms such as headaches, vision trouble, and seizures, depending on their location and size.


Neuromas are benign tumors that develop in the nerves and can cause symptoms such as pain, numbness, or weakness. They can be treated with surgical excision or cryotherapy.

Osteomas are benign tumors that develop in bone tissue. They can cause symptoms such as pain, pressure on bones or nerves, and difficulty with full range of motion. They can be treated with surgery, but often they are observed and not treated unless they cause symptoms.

Did you know colorectal adenoma can develop into colon cancer if left untreated?

Causes of benign tumors

Benign tumors can develop in people of all ages, including children, but they are more common in adults as they age. The exact cause of benign tumors is not always known, but they occur when cells in the body divide and grow at an excessive rate. Several factors may contribute to their development, including:

  • Age
  • Diet
  • Stress
  • Genetics
  • Infections
  • Hormonal changes
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Prior injury or surgery
  • Environmental exposure
  • Certain medical conditions

Benign tumors symptoms

The symptoms of benign tumors can vary depending on their location. Some benign tumors may not have symptoms and may not be large enough to cause discomfort or pain. Possible symptoms of benign tumors include:

  • Discomfort or pain
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss

They may also cause specific symptoms based on where they’re growing, such as headaches, vision trouble, fuzzy memory, seizures for benign brain tumors, a raised bump on or under the skin that is firm or soft when pressed, difficulty with full range of motion, pain, especially in joints or muscles, pressure on bones or nerves, and difficulty with full range of motion for benign bone tumors.

Diagnosis of benign tumors

Benign tumors are typically diagnosed through a combination of medical history, physical examination, imaging tests, and biopsy. The specific tests and procedures used may vary depending on the type and location of the tumor.

  • Medical history: The doctor will typically ask about any symptoms the patient is experiencing, as well as any risk factors for the specific type of tumor.
  • Physical examination: The doctor will conduct a physical examination to check for any signs of a tumor, such as a lump or mass.
  • Imaging tests: Imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or ultrasounds may be used to create detailed images of the tumor and surrounding tissue. These images can help the doctor determine the size, shape, and location of the tumor.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of tissue is taken from the tumor and examined under a microscope. This can help confirm the diagnosis and determine if the tumor is benign or malignant.

Treatment of benign tumors

The specific treatment plan will depend on the size, location, and type of the tumor, as well as the patient’s overall health and preferences.


  • Surgery: Surgery is the most common treatment for benign tumors. The tumor will be removed, and the surrounding tissue will be checked for any signs of malignancy. Depending on the size and location of the tumor, surgery may be done as an outpatient procedure or may require a hospital stay.
  • Other treatments: Depending on the type and location of the tumor, other treatments may be necessary. For example, benign tumors of the skin, such as moles or warts, may be treated with topical creams, freezing, or laser therapy.
  • Radiation therapy: In some cases, radiation therapy may be used to shrink the tumor before surgery or to reduce the risk of its recurrence after surgery.
  • Hormone therapy: Hormone therapy may be used to shrink benign tumors that are hormone-sensitive, such as fibroids in the uterus.

In some cases, for small, slow-growing benign tumors that are not causing any symptoms, a doctor may recommend simply monitoring the tumor over time rather than removing it. This may involve regular imaging tests or check-ups to ensure that the tumor is not growing or causing any problems.

Unlike cancerous tumors, benign tumors are not life-threatening. However, their symptoms can cause significant discomfort and disrupt daily activities. It is crucial to address these medical issues as they can also lead to mental stress. Additionally, some benign tumors can turn malignant if left untreated, so it’s important to have any unusual growths or lumps checked by a healthcare professional for early detection and proper treatment.

About Author –

Dr. Hemanth Vudayaraju,Director-Surgical Oncology & Minimal Access Onco Surgery and Robotic Surgeon, Yashoda Hospital,Hyderabad
MS (General Surgery), MCh (Surgical Oncology), DNB (Surgical Oncology)

Dr Hemanth - Surgical Oncology

Dr. Hemanth Vudayaraju

MS (General Surgery), MCh (Surgical Oncology), DNB (Surgical Oncology)
Director-Surgical Oncology & Minimal Access Onco Surgery and Robotic Surgeon

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