Introduction to Benign Tumors
Benign tumors are non-malignant growths. They may contain different cells but the mutual characteristics of all benign tumors is that they never spread to other tissues or organs, i.e. they never give metastases.
Even though benign tumors are not malignant per se in some cases they may act as malignant. For example, a person may have a benign tumor of the brain. The tumor can slowly grow and since it is located in the skull and there is no chance for the skull to enlarge the growth of the tumor causes increase in intracranial pressure and associated problems. Furthermore, some benign tumors may eventually transform into malignant. The previous two reasons as well as several more are simple explanations why most of benign tumors need to be removed from the body.
A Few More Characteristics of Benign Tumors
The term 'benign' refers to a mild and usually nonprogressive illness. Yes, many benign tumors are actually harmless and cause no serious health problems. Still, in some cases even though they are benign some tumors may have negative health effects.
Excessive growth of the benign tumor may cause compression of vital organs and structures and lead to serious health issues. Furthermore, in some cases tumors can be hormonally active. This means that they will produce the excess of certain hormone, increase its level in the blood and consequently increase all the effects the particular tumor gives. Hormonally active tumors are those that originate from the pituitary gland, adrenal glands and thyroid gland.
Benign tumors are made of cells that bear a strong resemblance to normal cells in the very organ of the tumor's origin. This is why such tumors are named after the cell or tissue they originate from with the suffix '-oma'. For example, a lipoma is a benign tumor of fat cells (lipocytes) and chondroma originates from cartilage-forming cells called chondrocytes. Adenomas are benign tumors made of gland-forming cells and they usually contain another name that refers to an organ they are originating from. One example is hepatic adenoma, a benign tumor of the liver.
As it has already been mentioned, most benign tumors require surgical removal since some of them may eventually transform into cancer. Additional genetic changes in a subpopulation of the tumor's neoplastic cells lead to the onset of rapid and uncontrollable growth of the tumor and it starts acting as malignant. One example of such transformation is the case of tubular adenoma. This is a common type of colon polyp, an important precursor of colon cancer.