A benign tumor is a tumor that does not meet the criteria for a malignant or semi-malignant tumor. Unlike malignant tumors, benign tumors do not metastasize.
What is a benign tumor?
The growth of tissue is called a tumour. The term neoplasia is used synonymously. Neoplasias are new formations of body tissues that result from a disturbed regulation of cell growth. Any tissue in the body can be affected. A distinction can be made between noncancerous (benign) and malignant (malignant) variants. Malignant tumors are colloquially referred to as cancer.
According to abbreviationfinder.org, benign tumors are characterized by displacing the surrounding tissue without invading it. In addition, they do not constitute “settlements”. “Settlements” is another word for metastases. In contrast, malignant tumors grow invasively. They grow into the surrounding tissue and thereby destroy it. They also spread via the blood or lymphatic system. The semi-malignant tumors exist as an intermediate form. As a rule, they do not set metastases, but grow in a destructive and infiltrating manner.
Benign tumors are well differentiated from healthy tissue by capsules or pseudo-capsules. The tissue of the tumors is homogeneous and well differentiated. The cells show little or no cellular changes. Mitotic activity is low. This means that the benign tumors have a low rate of cell division.
Benign tumors are further differentiated according to their origin. A benign tumor is always named after the Latin name of its tissue of origin. The “-om” suffix is appended to this name. For example, the benign tumor of the epithelial gland tissue is called an adenoma. A benign tumor arising from fatty tissue is called a lipoma.
The causes and development of benign tumors have not yet been fully clarified. Genetic disposition appears to play a role. In addition, the development of some benign tumors is promoted by taking certain medications. For example, the risk of developing a liver cell adenoma increases in women who have been taking oral contraceptives for many years.
Other tumors occur in almost everyone over a certain age. Benign prostatic hyperplasia, for example, is a widespread disease. The majority of men over the age of 50 have a benign enlarged prostate. Adenomas of the tonsils also occur frequently. However, children are mostly affected here.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
Symptoms depend on the location and size of the tumor. Adenomas of the gastrointestinal tract bulge into the intestinal lumen, which can obstruct the passage of stool. The result is constipation and pain during bowel movements. Blood in the stool can also occur.
Adenomas of the tonsils, also known as polyps, can result in difficulty breathing and an increased susceptibility to infection. Adenomas of the thyroid gland can produce thyroid hormones independently of the hormone control circuit. The result is an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) with symptoms such as diarrhea, tachycardia, sweating or weight loss. Adenomas of the adrenal glands can also produce hormones.
Overproduction of the hormone cortisol can lead to Cushing’s disease. Typical symptoms of this hypercortisolism are weight gain, fatigue, bull hump and parchment skin. Adenomas of the prostate often cause problems with urination. Depending on the size of the tumor, bowel movements may also be affected.
Adenomas of the ovaries only cause symptoms when they crowd out other organs as they grow. Typical symptoms are a feeling of fullness, problems with bowel movements and urination, abdominal pain and lower back pain. If the adenoma of the ovaries produces hormones, bleeding can occur regardless of the menstrual cycle. Liver cell adenomas are often accompanied by severe abdominal pain.
Necrosis with life-threatening bleeding can also occur. Pituitary adenomas lead to increased hormone secretion. Depending on the type of hormone, different symptoms can develop.
Various examination methods are available for diagnosing benign tumors. X -ray examinations can be used to visualize pathological changes in organs or parts of the body. Imaging methods such as ultrasound, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging are also used. Some adenomas are removed and then examined under a microscope to rule out malignant cancer.
Even a benign tumor can cause a number of complications. First, there is a risk that the growth will compress the surrounding tissue and damage hollow organs. If a blood vessel is squeezed, it can lead to a lack of oxygen supply to limbs or organs. In the worst case, the tissue dies.
A benign tumor in the gastrointestinal tract can cause blockage or bowel obstruction. If the bile is affected, the urine may no longer be able to drain properly and bile build-up occurs. Such a backwater can lead to jaundice, but also to infections and urinary stasis.
A benign tumor can also cause circulatory disorders. This can cause blood clots to form, which can cause many other local complications. A tumor in the intestinal wall can, under certain circumstances, break through the intestinal wall, which usually results in a life-threatening inflammation of the peritoneum.
As a result of a breakthrough, further fistulas can form in other organs such as the urinary bladder or the uterus, which in turn can become inflamed. When removing a benign tumor, there is a risk of tissue and nerve damage. Physically exhausting therapy methods such as chemotherapy can cause further symptoms.
When should you go to the doctor?
Even with a benign tumor, a doctor should always be consulted. This can prevent the tumor from developing. As a rule, the doctor should be consulted if there is weight loss and problems in the stomach and intestines without any particular reason.
Above all, bloody stool can indicate this tumor. Most patients suffer from painful bowel movements or severe constipation. Furthermore, a visit to the doctor is necessary if the patient frequently suffers from tachycardia or heavy sweating.
An overactive thyroid gland is also a very common indicator of a benign tumor. In addition to the discomfort during bowel movements, pain when urinating should always be examined by a doctor. A feeling of fullness or severe flatulence can also indicate this disease.
Since the symptoms are not always specific, regular and early examinations can have a very positive effect on the course of the disease. First and foremost, a general practitioner can be consulted if a benign tumor is suspected. This usually refers the affected person to an internist or a urologist.
Treatment & Therapy
The therapy depends on the type, location and size of the tumour. While small tumors in the intestinal area rarely cause symptoms, a small benign tumor in the brain can cause severe symptoms. Adenomas in the intestine tend to transform into malignant tumors, so the adenomas are usually removed during a colonoscopy.
Adenomas of the tonsils are also removed by means of an adenoidectomy if there are already symptoms in childhood. In the case of thyroid adenomas, the affected part of the thyroid gland is destroyed using radioiodine therapy or surgically removed. Hormone-producing adenomas of the adrenal glands are also surgically removed.
Adenomas of the prostate are usually treated with drugs. In addition, phytopharmaceuticals and biogenic drugs are used. If the symptoms are severe, invasive or surgical treatment is indicated. Surgery is also used for adenomas in the ovaries. In women after the age of 40, the entire fallopian tube is removed.
After the menopause, the uterus, ovaries and both fallopian tubes are also removed. Surgical removal is also recommended for large adenomas of the liver. Growth hormone -producing tumors of the pituitary gland, on the other hand, can be reduced in size with medication. Depending on the size of the tumor, an operation may also be necessary.
Outlook & Forecast
The prognosis for a benign tumor depends on the location and size of the tissue change. Normal life expectancy is not shortened. Despite the irregularity, some patients can enjoy a symptom-free lifestyle until the end of their lives. Nevertheless, there is a risk that the tumor will press on surrounding organs, joints, glands, vessels or nerves. This affects their ability to function and causes complaints. With further growth of the tumor, the patient’s health gradually deteriorates.
In severe cases, there are malfunctions or complete failures of individual systems. Daily life is restricted and the patient needs help. Without medical attention, internal injuries can occur, pain can develop, or a life-threatening condition can develop. Due to the narrowness, benign tumors inside the skull often lead to limitations in brain activity. Sensory functions are interrupted and information that has been received can no longer be adequately processed.
Although benign tumors can usually be easily removed, if the tumor is in an unfavorable location, there is a risk that removal will lead to complications and damage to the surrounding area. In severe cases, benign tumors can mutate as they develop. Once they become malignant, the patient’s prognosis worsens significantly.
Since the cause of most benign tumors has not yet been clarified, prevention is not possible.
The type and duration of aftercare depends on the location and treatment of the benign tumor. Follow-up measures are often not necessary. If the benign tumor was surgically removed, the healing of the surgical scars should be observed. If there are postoperative complications, intensive follow-up care is necessary.
As a rule, after the tumor has been successfully removed, several check-ups are carried out to determine whether the tumors are coming back. In some areas of the body, such as the chest area, those affected can determine this themselves through regular palpation. Nevertheless, regular examinations by a doctor are also advisable in these cases.
The exact interval of the checks is determined by the respective specialist. Some forms of benign tumors strongly stimulate tissue growth after their removal, which can also lead to the formation of new ulcers. There is therefore an increased risk that malignant tumors will develop.
As soon as those affected notice changes again, they should therefore consult a specialist, regardless of the agreed check-up intervals. In some cases, due to their location and growth, benign tumors can be inoperable and even fatal in the long term. Those affected should be closely monitored in these cases.
You can do that yourself
If a benign tumor is detected, medical treatment is not always necessary. Which steps have to be taken in detail and what those affected can do themselves depends on the type, location and size of the tumour.
Adenomas in the tonsils, prostate, intestines or brain are usually surgically removed. Patients have to adjust to bed rest for a few weeks and may also have to change their diet. Ultimately, the doctor will tell the patient what steps they can take themselves. In the case of larger intestinal tumors, preparations for temporary incontinence are sometimes useful.
In the case of benign brain tumors, serious complications can occur due to the complexity of the procedure. It is therefore advisable to seek therapeutic support at an early stage. Preparing for your stay in the clinic also includes organizing all the necessary documents, medication and aids. Friends and relatives should also be informed.
If the procedure is successful, the patient can usually leave the hospital after a few days. After that, regular check-ups are indicated. Sometimes it makes sense to change your lifestyle to reduce the risk of a new tumor forming.