Authored by Revere Health

The Difference Between Benign and Malignant Tumors

May 18, 2017 | Medical Oncology

Tumors are swollen masses in parts of the body caused by an abnormal growth of tissue. Certain tumors, such as “solid tumors” (a tumor that doesn’t contain any liquid or cysts, and includes sarcomas, carcinomas and lymphomas), can be either benign or malignant. Do you know the difference?

Malignant Tumors


Malignant tumors are cancerous. They divide without control and invade other tissues nearby. They can also spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. Forms of malignant cancer include:

  • Carcinoma: begins in the skin or tissues in internal organs
  • Sarcoma: begins in bone, fat, cartilage, muscle, blood vessels or other connective tissues in the body
  • Leukemia: malignancy that begins in bone marrow or other blood-forming tissue, causing abnormal cells to enter the bloodstream
  • Lymphoma and multiple myeloma: begin in cells of the immune system
  • Central nervous system cancers: malignancies that begin in the spinal cord or brain tissues

Treatments for malignant tumors includes chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy, plus any other individual treatments your doctor may prescribe.


Benign Tumors


A benign tumor is a non-cancerous tumor. This means the tumor does not invade nearby tissue or spread in the body, and is therefore much less risky. However, certain benign tumors can still pose health risks and require treatment.

There are several types of benign tumors:

  • Adenomas: commonly seen as colon polyps, adenomas begin in the epithelial tissue of a gland
  • Fibromas: tumors of fibrous or connective tissue, capable of growing in any organ but common in the uterus
  • Hemangiomas: a buildup of blood vessel cells in the skin or internal organs, commonly seen as birthmarks that go away on their own
  • Lipomas: tumors that grow on fat cells
  • Meningiomas: tumors that develop from the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord—some forms of these can be malignant, though around 90 percent are benign
  • Myomas: tumors that grow from muscle
  • Nevi: moles on the skin
  • Neuromas: tumors that grow from nerves
  • Osteochondromas: the most common type of benign bone tumor
  • Papillomas: finger-like frond tumors that grow from epithelial tissue—these can also be malignant.


Causes of benign tumors include:

  • Genetics
  • Diet
  • Stress
  • Toxins: exposure to radiation or other environmental toxins
  • Inflammation or injection
  • Trauma or injury to a specific area


Many cases of benign tumors don’t require treatment, and doctors will monitor the tumor to make sure it doesn’t cause problems. If symptoms are becoming an issue or threatening other organs, surgery may be required to remove the tumor. In some cases, medications or radiation therapy might be used as well. Your doctor will help determine the best course of action for you with benign vs. malignant cases.

*Note: No two cancer cases are alike. None of the statements herein are designed to suggest a “one size fits all” approach, and each case will be evaluated individually.


We provide the latest in cancer treatment and technologies, and work with you to determine the best treatment options at any stage of your treatment. 




“‘Malignancy’ definition.” National Cancer Institute Dictionary of Cancer Terms.

“‘Solid tumor’ definition.” National Cancer Institute Dictionary of Cancer Terms.

“Benign Tumors.” WebMD.


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.