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A low-grade neoplasm is a collection of precancerous cells that have a very low probability of becoming cancer. This condition is a form of dysplasia. A low-grade neoplasm has many identifying characteristics when a pathologist views it under a microscope. Though cancer may never develop, removing the affected cells and possibly surrounding tissue is often the best treatment option. Depending on the location of the neoplasm, treatment may be impractical unless cancer should develop.
Dysplasia, or abnormal cell maturation, can be high or low grade. A low-grade neoplasm is a flat collection of slightly abnormal cells that have not penetrated any of the surrounding membranes of its area of origin. A high-grade neoplasm, too, has not moved beyond its area of origin, but is different in that its cells more resemble cancer cells than normal, healthy cells. Therefore, a high-grade carcinoma is called carcinoma in situ, a collection of cancer-like cells that have not yet begun rapidly dividing.
A low-grade neoplasm has certain characteristics that make it noticeable to pathologists performing tests such as a biopsy or pap smear. The collected cells, viewed under a microscope, appear abnormal in four distinct ways. Cells are of unequal size and shape when compared to the surrounding cells. Also, the color of the cells is different that that of healthy cells. Finally, the replication cycle of this type of neoplasm is altered.
Once a physician has diagnosed the presence of a low-grade neoplasm, he or she can discuss treatment options with the patient. If the neoplasm is present on the skin, simple surgery to remove the cells is the most common treatment. Though neoplasms rarely become cancer, surgical removal leaves nothing to chance. Treatment options become more complicated when a neoplasm develops within the body.
If a biopsy of a woman's breast tissue uncovers a neoplasm, a woman may decide to have a mastectomy to prevent developing breast cancer. Though not recommended for all women, it is an option for women whose family history has many examples of breast cancer. Many women who have preemptive mastectomies later undergo reconstructive surgery to restore their breasts' previous appearance.
If a low-grade neoplasm develops in an area of the body where surgery is dangerous to the patient, a physician may advise the patient to adopt a wait-and-see approach to treatment. For example, removing a neoplasm present within the brain or on the brain stem is extremely dangerous. Regularly monitoring the neoplasm through MRI or CT scanning allows physicians to see if the neoplasm undergoes a malignant transformation. If life-threatening cancer should develop, it becomes necessary to perform a dangerous treatment option.