Benign Tumor vs. Malignant Tumor: What's the Difference?

Key Difference

If the cells of the tumor are not cancerous, then the tumor is benign while tumor will be malignant if its cells are cancerous.

Comparison Chart

Benign Tumor Malignant Tumor
Growth Rate Slow growth Fast growth
Ability to Spread Benign tumor doesn’t spread to other parts Malignant tumor invades other parts
Recurrence Less likely to recur More likely to recur
Shape Round and smooth with surrounding fibrous capsule Irregular shape with no capsule
Systemic Effects Benign tumor secrete hormones The malignant tumor also secretes hormones and other secretions.
Treatments Surgery, radiations Chemotherapy, radiations, immunotherapy
Examples Fibroid, lipomas, meningiomas, myomas, osteochondromas Sarcomas, Carcinoma
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What is Benign Tumor?

If a patient diagnosed with a tumor, then oncologist (cancer doctor) will find either it is benign or malignant then a treatment plan will be made. Pathologists do a biopsy of cells to detect the type of tumor. Cells are analyzed under a microscope in biopsy procedure in a scientific lab. A tumor is a mass or lump of abnormal calls. If these cells are normal, then tumor will be benign. A benign tumor is less worrisome compared to malignant because it doesn’t invade surrounding tissues unless it is pressing on nearby nerves, tissues or vessels for damage. It remains confined to a place where it is started. Besides this, it is less likely to recur. If it recurs, it is only at original site. Cells of the benign tumor are well differentiated and resemble the tissue from which it has originated.  Benign tumors are usually slow in growth rate, but sometimes they grow fast. Benign pheochromocytomas produce secretions, e.g., hormones. Chemotherapy is not required for removal of the benign tumor. It can be removed by surgery because they have clear boundaries. But sometimes radiation and medications are necessary to eradicate it. Some benign tumors which don’t cause any risk to health are not obliged to treat. This type of tumor can be dangerous if it occurs in brain and crowd the normal structures in the skull. Sometimes, benign tumors press on vital organs and block channels. Intestinal polyps are considered precancerous and become malignant, so it has to remove surgically. Some benign tumors transform in the malignant tumor at later stages, so it is necessary to remove them. Adenomatous polyps (also known as adenomas) in the colon have a higher risk of transforming into malignant form. These polyps are removed during a colonoscopy, which is the only treatment. Benign tumors which have potential to become malignant tumor are called “precancerous” or “dysplastic” tumors. Most commonly occurring benign tumors are meningiomas (brain and spinal cord), fibromas (connective tissue of organs), adenomas (epithelial tissue of organs), papillomas (breast, skin, cervix and mucus membranes), nevi (moles), lipomas (fat cells), myomas (muscle tissue), neuromas (nerves), hemangiomas (blood vessels and skin) and osteochondromas (bones).

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What is Malignant Tumor?

A malignant tumor is made of cancer cells and invades surrounding tissues. Malignant tumors grow fast and attack nearby tissues, but some tumors have slow growth rate. These tumors use blood stream, circulatory system and lymphatic system to grow on other areas and tissues. Growing on other areas is called metastasis. Breast cancer begins in the breast tissues and spread to lymph nodes in the armpit it not treated at early stage. Once breast cancer has the extent to the lymph nodes, the cancer cells can travel to other regions of the body, for example, bones or liver. Cancer cells often have abnormal cells, chromosomes, and DNA which makes their nuclei darker and larger. They also often have different forms than normal cells. This is how they can be recognized. But sometimes, the difference is subtle. Malignant cells secrete secretions that cause effects throughout the body such as weight loss and fatigue. This phenomenon is called paraneoplastic syndrome. Malignant tumors require chemotherapy, radiation therapy and sometimes immunotherapy for treatment. A malignant tumor can arise at any site of the body including, breasts, intestines, reproductive organs, lungs, skin, and blood. Various causes of malignant tumors are obesity, alcohol consumption, smoking, poor diet, heavy metal exposure, environmental pollution, lack of physical activity and household toxins. There are almost 200 different types of cancers which effect human body. Most common type of malignant tumors is sarcomas (connective tissues such as muscles, tendons, fats, and cartilage) and carcinomas (organs and gland tissues).

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Benign Tumor vs. Malignant Tumor

  • Benign means noncancerous.
  • Malignant means cancerous.
  • Word malignant has derived from the French
  • Word malignant has derived from Latin word which means “badly ”
  • Benign tumors are bounded by a protective sac (connective tissues) which restricts its growth.
  • Malignant tumors are not surrounded by protective sac which is the result of the immune
  • Benign tumors are less resistant to treatment.
  • Malignant tumors are more resistant to treatment.
  • The benign tumor causes 13,000 deaths annually in America.
  • The malignant tumor causes 500,000 deaths annually in America.

Explanatory Video

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