A tumor is a sign of an inflammation. Tumors may either be benign or malignant. Benign tumors develop only in one place and do not spread elsewhere. Some benign tumors are harmless while others can still be dangerous especially if they press on vital organs.
Malignant tumors grow by invading cells that are close by and invade other parts of the body. This process is referred to as metastasis. When cells break off the tumor, it finds its way through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. As a result, it is able to penetrate other areas and infect normal tissues. This is the process of how a tumor starts in one area of the body (e.g. the breast, stomach, prostate, lungs, etc.) and spreads to other locations.
There are many different types of tumors and they are typically named based on the kind of tissue they form in. The name of the tumor also suggests its shape or how it grows.
Signs and symptoms
Tumor symptoms usually depend on the type and area where the tumor is found. For example, symptoms of lung tumors greatly affect the lungs. Lung tumors cause coughing, chest pain or shortness of breath.
Not all tumors exhibit symptoms. There are some tumors, like those observed in pancreatic cancer that do not show any symptoms at the start. The symptoms only become observable when the disease has reached an advanced stage.
The symptoms common in most tumors are:
Causes and risk factors
Tumors normally form when excessive cell division occurs in the body. Normally, some old cells in the body die, and new ones arise to replace them. New cells form in order to take the place of old ones or damaged cells. However, there are times when something goes wrong during the process. In some cases, new cells form even though they are not needed and some old cells do not die when they are supposed to. Extra cells are responsible for mass formations in the body. A disturbance in the balance of division and death of cells lead to the formation of tumors. Problems in the immune system can lead to the formation of tumors in the body.
There are some tumors that are more common in a particular gender. For example, breast cancer is more common among females than males.
Some tumors are also more common among children or the elderly. There are tumors that are associated with family history, diet, and environment.
The following factors increase a person’s susceptibility to developing tumors:
- Exposure to benzene and other chemicals and toxins.
- Excessive drinking of alcohol.
- Exposure to environmental toxins.
- Prolonged sun exposure.
- Genetic problems.
- Exposure to radiation.
Two types of tumors caused by viruses are:
- Cervical cancer caused by (human papillomavirus)
- Hepatocellular carcinoma or malignant hepatoma caused by (Hepatitis B virus)
Diagnosis and tests
Common tests for tumor diagnosis include:
- Biopsy of the tumor tissue
- Blood tests to determine presence of chemicals such as tumor markers
- Bone marrow biopsy usually for patients with lymphoma or leukemia
- Chest x-ray
- Complete blood count (CBC)
When a tumor is detected, a biopsy is conducted in order to determine if the tumor is benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Biopsy may involve a simple or serious operation depending on the location where the tumor is found. Most patients undergo CT or MRI scans to find out the exact area of the tumor and to determine if it has reached other areas. The positron emission tomography (PET) scan is also utilized to detect other tumor types.
The treatment of a tumor depends on its type, its malignancy, and its location in the body.
A tumor that is isolated in one location can usually be removed through surgery. Other forms of treatment can be utilized in cases where the cancer cannot be removed by surgery. There are some cases that require a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy to eradicate the cancer cells.
Treatment may not be needed if the tumor is benign and located in a “safe” area in the body where it does not cause symptoms or interfere with the function of any major organ. Benign tumors can be removed if the patient is concerned with how it appears on the body. Meanwhile, some benign tumors have to be removed due to its harmful effect to an organ of the body.
Possible treatments for cancerous tumors are:
- Combination of the above methods
Complications take place if a tumor that is found in a certain region of the body begins to affect the function of the normal organ. The patient’s condition becomes worse when the tumor metastasizes. This occurs when a malignant tumor that causes complications spread to other areas of the body.
Prevention and control
The best way to lower the risk of malignant tumors is by leading a healthy lifestyle. Here are some guidelines that can help lower the risk of developing cancerous cells:
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid excessive alcohol intake.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals.
- Do not smoke or chew tobacco.
- Reduce prolonged sun exposure.