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What is a Glomus Tumor?

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  • Written By: Jennifer Long
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2016
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A glomus tumor, also called a glomangioma, is a type of benign vascular tumor. It is also known as a rare benign neoplasm. This type of tumor is a broad name given to vascular tumors that create an abnormal mass of cells, leading to the growth.

In general, a glomus tumor is a term used to diagnose several cutaneous conditions with benign dermal growths. There are several subclasses that can be considered glomus tumors. The growths are classified based on their locations. A basic type of this tumor usually grows in the skin or soft tissue and are often limited to the limbs or under the fingernails, but can grow anywhere on the body, including organs. Glomus tumors are classified into groups based on their location.

A coccygeal glomus tumor is one type of benign tumor. This tumor grows in front of or just below the coccyx. The typical shape of this type of tumor is oval or oblong. In some cases, smaller coccygeal nodules are found around the larger tumor.

Glomus tympanicum is another type of glomus tumor. It occurs when glomus cells in the blood vessels of the middle ear create a tumor. Usually, these tumors are discovered when someone complains of hearing pulsing sounds, has ear bleeding, and experiences conductive hearing loss. A doctor will perform a physical exam and order a computerized topography (CT) scan to diagnose this tumor.

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Standard paragangliomas are also glomus tumors. A paraganglioma is a glomus tumor that grows in different locations than typical glomus tumors. These particular tumors are usually found on the chest, abdomen, neck, or head.

Nonchromaffin paraganglioma is also categorized with other forms of glomus tumors. Also called chemodectoma, this type of tumor occurs in tissue that contains chemoreceptors. They are classified as glomus tumors because they have the same appearance when removed and examined.

Glomus tumors can occur from any one of four possible inherited or genetic mutations. If no mutation is found, growth is considered random. When the cause is from an inherited characteristic, it can often skip generations before presenting.

A glomus tumor is usually a single growth. There are some cases, however, where multiple growths appear clustered together. The tumors appear dark red or dark blue in color. Tumors under the fingernail may be white.

These tumors are most frequently removed surgically. While most glomus tumors are benign, rare instances occur when they become cancerous. If a person has a history of cancer, glomus tumors may start benign but change into cancerous tumors. Once removed, the tumors are biopsied.

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