True or False? Not all tumors are cancerous.


True. Confusion can arise because the words “tumor” and “cancer” are often regarded as the same thing. A tumor is not necessarily cancer, however. A tumor is defined as the “swelling of a part of the body, generally without inflammation, caused by an abnormal growth of tissue, whether benign or malignant.” It is also defined as “a swelling of any kind,” or “a mass.” So by definition, a collection of pus can be a tumor.

Not all tumors are cancerous, but a cancer is a particularly threatening type of tumor.

The following terms are often used by doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

  • Neoplasm: An abnormal formation of tissue that grows at the expense of the healthy organism and competes with normal cells for nutrients. It refers to either benign or malignant growths. It is a synonym for tumor.
  • Tumor: A swelling or enlargement. This is the more commonly used term for neoplasm. This general term can refer to either benign or malignant growths.
  • Benign tumor: A non-malignant/non-cancerous tumor. It is usually localized, rarely spreads to other parts of the body, and can be usually treated by surgery only. If left untreated, however, benign tumors in certain localization can cause serious problems.
  • Malignant tumour: Cancer. A malignant tumor may spread to other parts of the body and often recurs after removal if not treated with chemotherapy or radiotherapy
  • Cancer: A malignant tumor (a malignant neoplasm). Used to describe approximately 200 types of malignant neoplasms.
Montreal Children's Hospital


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