Tumor, Uncertain Cause

The body is always growing new cells to replace cells that wear out or are damaged in some way. A tumor occurs when cells start to grow about of control and make more cells than needed.

Tumors that are not cancer

Not all tumors are cancer. A benign tumor is a growth that's not cancer. These tumors stay in 1 place and tend to grow slowly. Benign tumors don’t spread to other parts of the body and are rarely life-threatening. Benign brain tumors are an exception. They can press on parts of the brain and cause serious problems even when they're small.

Some examples of benign tumors that can be found in different parts of the body:

  • Breast. Cyst (fluid-filled sac) or adenoma (overgrowth of glandular tissue)

  • Skin. Lipoma (over-growth of fat cells) or sebaceous cyst (sac filled with skin oils and dead skin cells)

  • Thyroid. Colloid nodule (an overgrowth of normal thyroid tissue)

  • Colon. Polyps (out-pouching of the moist lining of the intestine)

  • Lung. Granuloma (calcium deposits in an area of scarring)

Benign tumors can often be removed with surgery and usually do not grow back.

Tumors that are cancer

A malignant tumor is cancer. It will invade nearby tissues and can spread through the blood and lymph to other parts of the body.

Types of cancer include:

  • Carcinoma. This grows in the lining of organs, like the skin, lungs, breast, colon and intestines.

  • Sarcoma. This grows in bones and muscle tissues.

  • Lymphoma. This grows in the lymph nodes and affects a type of white blood cell (lymphocytes).

  • Leukemia. This grows in the bone marrow and affects white blood cells.

  • Myeloma. This grows in the bone marrow and affects cells of the immune system.

Cancers are treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination of these methods.

Signs that you may have a tumor

Many tumors grow deep in the body and are only found after they cause symptoms or problems. See a healthcare provider right away if you notice any of these changes:

  • A new lump or bump that's getting bigger

  • Blood in your stool

  • Unexpected weight loss (more than 10 pounds in less than 3 months without trying to lose weight)

  • Frequent fever or sweats

  • Frequent colds or infections

  • A skin sore that doesn’t heal

  • New lump in the breast or changes in the nipple or skin of your breast

  • Swelling in your belly (abdomen) or bloating

  • Feeling full after eating a small amount

  • Indigestion or trouble swallowing

  • A change in the look of a wart or mole

  • Persistent cough, hoarseness, or coughing up blood

  • Shortness of breath or trouble catching your breath

  • Extreme tiredness that doesn't get better with sleep

  • Unexplained pain that doesn't get better or respond to pain medicine

  • White patches or sores in your mouth or on your tongue

  • Changes in your ability to eat, pass urine, or have a bowel movement

  • Unusual bleeding or discharge

Most of the time, these problems are not caused by cancer, but they may still need to be treated. Only a healthcare provider can tell you if a change is cancer.

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