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What is a Mixed Tumor?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 27 November 2016
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A mixed tumor is an abnormal growth that contains a mixture of tissue types. This is sometimes apparent on physical examination, especially if a surgeon or pathologist has experience with mixed tumors and can recognize common indicators that multiple tissue types are involved. In other cases, the growth may need to be examined on a microscopic level with the use of stains and other tools to identify it as a mixed tumor.

Abnormal growths, also known as neoplasms, can arise in or on the body for a wide variety of reasons. Some people are born with small tumors that develop over time, while other people develop entirely new growths after birth. They can be the result of environmental exposures that damage cellular DNA and lead to out of control replication or may be caused by genetic conditions and responses to injury and disease. When a neoplasm is identified, primary concerns include determining whether it is malignant and identifying the type of tissue involved so that the origins of the tumor are known.

Mixed tumors can arise at the borders between tissue types, and they can also be found when growths metastasize to new areas of the body, carrying cancerous cells from one type of tissue into another type of tissue. A common location for a mixed tumor is the salivary glands but they can be found anywhere. The tissues involved vary widely depending on the location.

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Tumors are not necessarily malignant. In order to be considered malignant, a mixed tumor must be growing aggressively and spreading. Some growths remain benign, growing very slowly and remaining confined to the areas where they originate. In the case of benign mixed tumors, a physician may recommend a wait and see approach, leaving the growth alone after confirming that it is not dangerous. If it becomes a problem, it can be surgically removed.

For malignant tumors, aggressive treatment may be required. The growth is removed along with neighboring lymph nodes in case cancerous cells have spread and the patient may be advised to take chemotherapy and radiation to reduce the risk of a recurrence. Medical imaging studies can be used to determine if the growth has spread to another region of the body and imaging can also be used on follow-up visits to check for signs of recurrence. The types of treatment available for a mixed tumor are dependent on the type and location of the tumor and patients can spend varying amounts of time in treatment.

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