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Tumor Mass; Neoplasm Last reviewed: September 3, 2012.

A tumor is an abnormal growth of body tissue. Tumors can be cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors In general, tumors occur when cells divide and grow excessively in the body. Normally, cell growth and division is strictly controlled. New cells are created to replace older ones or to perform new functions. Cells that are damaged or no longer needed die to make room for healthy replacements.

If the balance of cell growth and death is disturbed, a tumor may form.

Problems with the body's immune system can lead to tumors. Tobacco causes more deaths from cancer than any other environmental substance. Other causes include:

•Benzene and other chemicals and toxins

•Drinking too much alcohol

•Environmental toxins, such as certain poisonous mushrooms and a type of poison that can grow on peanut plants (aflatoxins)

•Excessive sunlight exposure

•Genetic problems

•Obesity

•Radiation

environment. Some are more common among children or the elderly. Tumors of the colon can cause weight loss. and family history. or chest pain. do not usually cause symptoms until the disease has reached an advanced stage. iron deficiency anemia. lung tumors may cause coughing.•Viruses Types of tumors known to be caused by viruses are: •Cervical cancer (human papillomavirus) •Hepatocellular carcinoma (hepatitis B virus) Some tumors are more common in one gender than the other. For example. and blood in the stool. Others are related to diet. Some tumors may not cause any symptoms. Symptoms Symptoms depend on the type and location of the tumor. diarrhea. shortness of breath. Others. constipation. The following symptoms may occur with tumors: •Chills •Fatigue •Fever •Loss of appetite . such as pancreatic cancer.

More recently. such as skin cancer. A CT or MRI scan can determine the exact location of the tumor and how far it has spread.•Malaise •Night sweats •Weight loss Signs and tests Your doctor or nurse might see a tumor. When a tumor is found. positron emission tomography (PET) scans have been used to find certain tumor types. However. This is called a biopsy. Depending on the location of the tumor. It is done to determine if the tumor is noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant). the biopsy may be a simple procedure or a serious operation. Other tests that may be done include: •Blood tests •Bone marrow biopsy (most often for lymphoma or leukemia) •Chest x-ray •Complete blood count (CBC) •Liver function tests Treatment . most cancers cannot be seen during an exam because they are deep inside the body. a piece of the tissue is removed and examined under a microscope.

Benign tumors of the brain may be removed because of their location or harmful effect on the surrounding normal brain tissue. or both. Some patients need a combination of surgery. Sometimes benign tumors may be removed for cosmetic reasons. If all of the cancer cannot be removed with surgery. possible treatments include: •Chemotherapy •Radiation •Surgery •A combination of these methods If a cancerous tumor is in one location. radiation. and chemotherapy.Treatment varies based on: •Type of tumor •Whether it is cancer or not •Location of the tumor You may not need treatment if the tumor is benign (noncancerous) and in a "safe" area where it will not cause symptoms or cause problems with the way an organ works. . If a tumor is cancer. Surgery may also be done if the tumor has spread only to nearby lymph nodes. surgery is usually performed. treatment includes radiation or chemotherapy.

and patients can live for many years with the cancer. such as in the brain. If the tumor is malignant. If the tumor is malignant. Some that are not curable can still be treated. Still other tumors are quickly life-threatening. However. There are many resources for cancer patients. it can also cause complications if it spreads (metastasizes). Prevention You can reduce the risk of cancerous (malignant) tumors by: •Eating a healthy diet •Exercising regularly •Limiting alcohol •Maintaining a healthy weight •Minimizing exposure to radiation and toxic chemicals . If the tumor is benign. Some cancers can be cured.Support Groups A cancer diagnosis often causes a lot of anxiety and can affect a patient's entire life. See: Cancer resources Expectations (prognosis) The outlook varies greatly for different types of tumors. Complications Complications can occur if a tumor is located in a region of the body where it affects the function of the normal organ. the outlook is generally very good. the outcome depends on the type and stage of the tumor at diagnosis. there are some instances where a benign tumor can cause significant problems.

.•Not smoking or chewing tobacco •Reducing sun exposure. especially if you burn easily.