A tumor is an abnormal growth of cells that serves no purpose. A benign tumor is not a malignant tumor, which is cancer. It does not invade nearby tissue or spread to other parts of the body the way cancer can. In most cases, the outlook with benign tumors is very good. But benign tumors can be serious if they press on vital structures such as blood vessels or nerves. Therefore, sometimes they require treatment and other times they do not.
Causes of Benign Tumors
What causes a benign tumor to form? Often the cause is unknown. But the growth of a benign tumor might be linked to:
- Environmental toxins, such as exposure to radiation
- Local trauma or injury
- Inflammation or infection
Treatment of Benign Tumors
In many cases, benign tumors need no treatment. Doctors may simply use "watchful waiting" to make sure they cause no problems. But treatment may be needed if symptoms are a problem. Surgery is a common type of treatment for benign tumors. The goal is to remove the tumor without damaging surrounding tissues. Other types of treatment may include medication or radiation.
Common Types of Benign Tumors
There are many different types of benign tumors arising from different structures in the body. These are some of the most common types of benign tumors:
Adenomas are benign tumors 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.
If needed, adenomas can often be removed with surgery. Although not common, this type of tumor can become malignant. In the colon, less than 1 out of every 10 adenomas become cancerous.
Fibromas (or fibroids) are tumors of fibrous or connective tissue that can grow in any organ. Fibroids commonly grow in the uterus. Although not cancerous, uterine fibroids can lead to heavy vaginal bleeding, bladder problems, or pelvic pain or pressure.