What is a Cancerous Tumor?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 23 August 2019
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A cancerous tumor is a tumor which is considered malignant, meaning that it has the potential to spread to neighboring organs, cutting off the supply of nutrients to these areas and eventually causing severe symptoms. Malignant tumors require medical intervention to prevent the cancer from spreading, and ideally to excise the cancer altogether, so that the patient will return to normal health. Treating a cancerous tumor can involve a team of people, including a cancer specialist or oncologist and a surgeon.

Tumors are masses caused by uncontrolled cell growth. They are also called neoplasms. Tumors occur when cells start to duplicate with no checks in place, causing a proliferation of cells. Normally, the body carefully regulates cell production, ensuring that cells are duplicated as needed, but not allowed to grow uncontrollably. When a cell mutates, however, it duplicates itself rapidly, cloning copies of the damaged cell and creating a neoplasm.

Neoplasms can sometimes be identified with palpation, and in other instances, they are diagnosed after a patient develops symptoms caused by the tumors. Depending on the location of a tumor, it can cause neurological symptoms, organ damage, hormone imbalances, and other problems. Tumors are diagnosed by using medical imaging to identify the site, and following up with a biopsy of the cells which includes a determination of whether or not the tumor is malignant.


If a neoplasm is malignant, it is classified as a cancerous tumor. A malignant tumor is a cause for concern because it will continue to grow rapidly, and it will freely spread to neighboring organs. If it is left untreated, it may also spread to remote regions of the body. Cancerous tumors cut off the blood supply to organs, interfere with the production of hormones, and cause tissue death. Therefore, when a cancerous tumor is discovered, a treatment plan must be developed to address it.

Ideally, a malignant tumor is removed in a surgical procedure, and the patient is given medication which is designed to prevent the recurrence of the tumor. In some cases, a tumor may be in an inoperable location, in which case drugs may be used to try and shrink the tumor so that it cannot grow any larger. Because cancer has a tendency to recur, even if the tumor is successfully killed or removed, the patient will require a lifetime of medical appointments to check for recurrence so the cancer can be caught early if it does recur.


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Post 5

In 2012 I had a tumor removed from my kidney. The tumor had started inside the kidney and extended out close to my liver. My urologist said it was one of the largest tumors he's ever removed. However, afterwards, I was told that the tumor was benign and I believed this meant it was not cancer. A couple of weeks after the surgery, I returned to the hospital due to an infection. I was told by a different doctor that the tumor was considered cancer due to how large it was and how far it had extended from the interior of the kidney. I'm now confused as to whether or not I actually had "cancer" or just a tumor that could have become cancerous.

Post 3

What are the symptoms of a colon cancer tumor? And how do they determine whether you have colon cancer or not?

Post 2

@naturesgurl3 -- The case you mention is an interesting one, because in the case of brain tumors, the symptoms for benign and malignant tumors are about the same.

This holds true for lung cancer and benign tumors of the lung as well.

Both benign lung tumors and cancerous lung tumors cause shortness of breath, chest pain, and sometimes coughing up blood.

In the case of liver cancer and liver tumors, though, a cancerous tumor is more likely to show symptoms than a benign one, even though there are very few true signs of liver cancer (one reason it's so deadly).

A person with a benign liver tumor could live out their whole life without knowing they have

it, unless it grows large enough to be felt, whereas a person with a cancerous liver tumor will experience symptoms like jaundice and vomiting.

However, you make an excellent point on how hard it is to distinguish between cancerous and non-cancerous tumors. That's why it's so important to get yourself checked out even if you're pretty sure you've only got a benign tumor, just in case.

Post 1

How do the cancerous tumor symptoms differ from that of a non cancerous tumor?

For instance, how would you tell if you have a cancerous brain tumor or a benign brain tumor, since the effects of the tumor, i.e., pressure on the brain, would be the same whether it were brain cancer or a tumor that was benign?

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