For most women, the detection of a lump, or a tumor either on their own or by any other method can strike a chill in the heart – I have cancer is likely to be the first thought.

And yet it can be a confusing thing when women are assured that a majority of tumors are actually benign. We tend to associate the presence of a tumor as being bad in itself so what is a benign tumor and how is it different from a malignant tumor?

Malignant and BenignSimply put, a benign tumor is a non-cancerous tumor and a malignant tumor is a cancerous one.

As the term cancer itself means something that is invasive, destructive and able to cause harm and spread, the difference between benign and malignant becomes evident.

Malignant tumors grow aggressively

The cells of a malignant or cancerous tumor tend to multiply quickly and aggressively, whereas benign tumors may grow little or not at all. Benign tumors tend to remain of a similar size for a long time without causing harm.

A malignant tumor is active

Since a malignant tumor grows aggressively it affects the surrounding tissue negatively, causing pain and other bothersome symptoms by affecting the healthy tissues around the tumor. They cause pressure on vital organs, harming them or interrupting their normal functioning.

Malignant tumors spread or metastasize

Unlike benign tumors, malignant tumors tend to grow and even spread to other organs. For instance a malignant tumor in one area of the body such as a melanoma can spread to the liver or even the brain. So a significant difference between malignant and benign tumors is the ability of the malignant tumor not only to destroy healthy tissue around it, but to spread and cause further harm even to distant sites.

Benign tumors are not life threatening

On the other hand malignant tumors can be lethal if they are not detected and treated on time. While a benign tumor can be resolved easily in just one surgical intervention, a malignant tumor may need a multi-pronged treatment including surgery, radiation, chemo and so on.

There is however a problem in the classification of malignant and benign tumors; with some tumors that don’t fall into either category. These can be classified as pre-cancerous tumors – meaning that they are not yet cancerous, but their turning malignant in the future cannot be ruled out and that they have to be watched closely to observe developments if any.