A tumour is a lump or growth in a part of the body.
Some tumours are classed as malignant or cancerous. Benign tumours are not cancerous and are not usually life-threatening. A benign tumour tends to be slower growing and does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body the way cancer can.
In most cases the outlook with benign tumours is very good. However, benign tumours can cause problems if they press on vital structures such as blood vessels or nerves. For this reason sometimes they require treatment, but other times they do not.
Causes of benign tumours
What causes a benign tumour to form? Often the cause is unknown, but the growth of a benign tumour might be linked to:
- Environmental toxins such as exposure to radiation
- Local trauma or injury
- Inflammation or infection
Treatment of benign tumours
In many cases benign tumours need no treatment. Doctors may simply use "watchful waiting" to make sure they cause no problems. However, treatment may be needed if symptoms are a problem. Surgery is a common type of treatment for benign tumours. The goal is to remove the tumour without damaging surrounding tissues. Other types of treatment may include medication or radiotherapy.
Common types of benign tumours
There are many different types of benign tumours arising from different structures in the body. These are some of the most common types of benign tumours:
Adenomas are benign tumours starting in the epithelial tissue of a gland or gland-like structure. The epithelial tissue is the thin layer of tissue covering organs, glands and other structures. A common type of adenoma is a polyp in the colon. Adenomas might also grow in the liver or the adrenal, pituitary or thyroid gland.
In most cases adenomas can be removed with surgery. Although not common, this type of tumour can become malignant.
Fibromas are tumours of fibrous or connective tissue that can grow in any organ.
Another type of fibrous tissue tumour is a desmoid tumour. These tumours can cause problems by growing into nearby tissues.
Because they can cause symptoms, fibrous tissue tumours may need to be surgically removed.
Haemangiomas are a build-up of blood vessel cells in the skin or internal organs. Haemangiomas are a common type of birthmark, often occurring in the head, neck or trunk. They may appear red or bluish in colour. Most go away on their own. Those that interfere with vision, hearing or eating may require treatment.
Lipomas grow from fat cells. They are the most common benign tumour in adults, often found in the neck, shoulders, back or arms. Lipomas are slow growing, usually round and movable, and soft to the touch. They may run in families and sometimes they result from an injury. Treatment may be needed if a lipoma is painful or growing quickly. This may include steroid injections or removal through liposuction or surgery.