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What is a Benign Tumor?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Benign tumors are masses that do not exhibit the characteristics associated with cancerous tumors. Often, the tumor is self-contained and does not imbed itself into surrounding organs and tissue. While tumors of this type are not cancerous, there are often still good reasons for removing them from the body.

A benign tumor will differ from a malignant tumor in several important ways. First, a tumor that is benign will not permeate surrounding tissue and cause damage to the structural integrity of organs. By contrast, malignant tumors will invade tissue in the area of the growth and also begin to spread or metastasize to lymph nodes and any organs in the immediate vicinity of the mass.

The rate of growth is also another sign that a tumor is malignant or benign. A malignancy will grow at a relatively fast rate, with changes in size noticeable in a very short period of time. A tumor that is benign will grow at a much slower rate, with very little change in size or shape over several weeks or months.

Even though a benign tumor does not attack and embed itself in surrounding organs, there are still many instances where removing the tumor is necessary. The mass of the tumor may be pressing against vital organs or interfering with the function of various tissues in the body. When this happens, the body may attempt to produce a greater supply of various hormones that is actually needed. This action in turn interferes with the proper function of any organ that is inundated with excess hormones.

Depending on the location and structure of the mass, there are several common types of benign tumors. Two of the most common are simple moles and uterine fibroid tumors. Types of tumors that tend to develop and interfere with hormone production include pituitary adenomas, thyroid adenomas, and adrenocortical adenomas.

When a tumor is identified, it is not unusual for a physician to recommend that the tumor be removed. There are two reasons for this. First, while the tumor is not currently malignant, it may exhibit some attributes that lead the doctor to believe it could become malignant. A second reason for removing the tumor is that the location of the mass could be the cause for a number of pains and discomforts that will be alleviated when the mass is no longer present in the body.

In many situations, even a tumor judged to be benign is tested after removal to ensure that there is no beginning signs of malignancy that were not identified earlier in the treatment process. When there is evidence that the benign tumor was in the process of developing into a malignancy, healthcare providers can take additional steps to ensure there is no lingering residue in the body that could lead to the development of cancer at a later date.

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Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including TheHealthBoard, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

Discussion Comments

By anon338523 — On Jun 14, 2013

I am 48 and never had any type of issue before this. I have have a benign tumor just under my ear lobe at the end of my jaw line. Doc said its on my lymph node. Had biopsy and was told it's not cancer and benign but having surgery to remove it in July. My ear often feels like it's full of water and I have shooting pain occasionally. I can't sleep on that side due to the lump.

Question: They say it's attached to my lymph node. I thought only malignant type tumors did that? And yes it seems to grow rapidly. Do I need a second opinion?

The Doc told me there were three concerns: I would have a large scar because he needed to be able to get to the tumor. It is close to my facial nerve. Things could be different when he gets in there.

By anon320781 — On Feb 19, 2013

They found a non-cancerous lump on the back of my head and a CT scan was done. I'm also losing the vision in my left eye. I've had a retina specialist check it, but nothing was found so far. I am scheduled to see him again for more testing and also a headache specialist. Is there anyone out there who may have had similar problems that can help me? I cannot have a MRI because I have a stimulator on my spine. --Cindy

By sa1103 — On May 27, 2011

i am a girl age 24 and I have a benign tumor on my head. So far, I've had no treatment; they are just taking a mri scan every so often, and I have tablets to remove the pain. Sometimes it burns the body and eye nerves in vain. i had a biopsy done, but doctor said not to operate because it could be dangerous. please tell me what can i do? its unbearable.

By anon162672 — On Mar 24, 2011

i am a man of 52 and i have a benign tumour on the right front part of the brain the size of a 50p. so far I've had no treatment; they are just taking a mri scan every so often. I've had three taken but none in the last seven months. they said they would do another one in april but no word yet. i was told about the tumour in july 10. they found out because i had a fit. they have kept the fits under control by tablets, but nothing about the tumour. is this normal, because he said its very dangerous to operate and that's why they were just monitoring it. sometimes its like the blood was going back over the brain and back again, which is unnerving.

By pharmchick78 — On Sep 12, 2010

@charlie89 -- The short answer to your question is, yes, benign tumors can still cause health problems.

Take the issue of a benign brain tumor. It's benign, but the size and growth of the tumor can press on areas of the brain or brain stem and cause serious health problems like loss of vision or imbalance.

Likewise, a benign tumor in the lung can still cause breathing issues and a benign tumor in the pancreas can still impair pancreas function.

(This is why it's important not to ignore benign tumor symptoms, even if you're sure it's not cancer).

In the case of a benign neck tumor, it kind of depends on where it is. If your wife has what I call an external neck tumor, as in one that is not going to grow and press on anything, then you might be OK to leave it alone.

However, if it is something like a benign parotid tumor or thyroid tumor, then you should probably get it removed.

Above all, ask your doctor, and follow his or her advice -- he or she knows your wife's specific situation better than anyone on the internet, and will be able to advise you accordingly.

By Charlie89 — On Sep 12, 2010

Can a benign tumor still cause problems? My wife has a benign tumor in her neck, and we are trying to decide whether to get it removed or not.

What are the pros and cons of removing a benign neck tumor?

By zenmaster — On Sep 12, 2010

My best friend had such a scare when she had a benign tumor in her ear.

She had been losing hearing in one ear, and her balance was off, which is unusual in someone of her age (she's 23), so she got it checked out and the doctor said she had a tumor growing on her eardrum!

Luckily they were able to take it off pretty easily (I'm not sure what the regular benign tumor removal methods are, but hers was outpatient), and she's fine.

It was really scary when they didn't know what was going on though, as you can imagine.

By anon57986 — On Dec 29, 2009

Please help me i am in deep trouble. first, I had a non cancer tumor inside my leg joints and it removed by surgery seven years ago. but it again came in my waist. i can feel it when touching and it's growing in every mouth. i fear it will come all over my body. will it come inside my head?

what type of non cancer tumor did i have?

Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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