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VERIFIED CONTENTAuthor: lek. Katarzyna Banaszczyk

Cancer is the second most frequent cause of death among Poles (the first is cardiovascular disease). The terms cancer, cancer and tumor are often used interchangeably, but you should be aware that these are not synonyms. Is every tumor cancer? Is every tumor a cancer?

Canceris abnormal tissue that is formed when our body can lose control of how its cells multiply. This loss of control is due to the emergence of genetic mutations within the genetic material of cells (which is DNA - deoxyribonucleic acid). The body loses control over the given cells, because they do not respond to anti-growth factors, and cannot subject these cells to apoptosis, i.e. programmed cell death. A tumor is therefore a tissue that has a certain autonomy and gets out of control.

Cancer division

Tumors are conventionally divided into:

  • benign tumors - are characterized by a high degree of differentiation, which means that they closely resemble the cells from which they originate. They are much more common than malignant tumors. They are not typically life-threatening conditions and do not metastasize, the vast majority are associated with a favorable prognosis,
  • malignant neoplasms - have destructive properties - they infiltrate the surrounding tissue, destroying them, grow, metastasize and in many cases lead to the destruction of the body, and consequently, especially in the absence of treatment, the patient's death. The cancers, which will be discussed later in this article, are malignant neoplasms,
  • locally malignant neoplasms - we can read about them below.

Read more: Cancer: benign or malignant?

Benign tumors - features and examples

Let's get acquainted with the pathomorphological features of benign neoplasms. These neoplasms are mainly characterized by:

  • good separation from the surrounding tissues - they usually have a connective tissue bag that separates them from the environment,
  • do not infiltrate and do not occupy the surrounding tissues,
  • do not roll over,
  • are the most commonslow, long-term growth.

Of course there are some exceptions to the rules mentioned above. It is worth mentioning here uterine fibroids, which are benign tumors but can show a rapid growth rate during pregnancy due to the influence of hormones.

Common and common benign neoplasms include:

  • fibroids - changes originating in connective tissue, most often in the form of soft nodules,
  • lipomas - made of adipose tissue,
  • myomas,
  • osteomas - derived from bone tissue, typically found in young people,
  • hemangiomas - originating from small blood vessels, this benign neoplasm does not typically have a capsule and may grow to some extent between the surrounding cells. Regarding the internal organs, hemangiomas are most often located in the liver.

Malignant neoplasms - features and examples

Malignant neoplasms differ significantly from benign ones. Here, first of all, their features should be mentioned:

  • ability to invade surrounding tissues and organs,
  • reloading ability,
  • characterized by a rapid growth rate and no purse,
  • infiltration can take place through blood vessels and lymph vessels, it should be emphasized that malignant tumors can also spread through the cerebrospinal fluid and occupy the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord),
  • ability to resume growth - in the case of incomplete removal of the neoplastic tissue - the malignant neoplasm recurs and "grows back",
  • abnormal vessel formation - malignant neoplasms have the ability to angiogenesis.

Malignant neoplasms can also be divided into several groups, we include here:

  • crayfish,
  • sarcomas - these are malignant neoplasms originating from mesenchymal cells,
  • lymphomas and leukemias - i.e. cancers that originate from the lymphoid tissue and the hematopoietic system,
  • germ cell tumors - malignant tumors can also originate from germ cells and develop within the ovaries and testes.

This division illustrates that not every malignant neoplasm is always cancer, and often such a misconception prevails among many people. We cannot put an equal sign between the word cancer and malignant neoplasm, because malignant neoplasms are a broader group, which includes both cancers and, for example, sarcomas.

Locally malignant neoplasms - what are they?

Although after reading the information about malignant neoplasms,the title of this paragraph may surprise us a bit, it is worth being aware that in oncology there are also locally malignant neoplasms.

What are they characterized by? These tumors, like malignant tumors, have the ability to invade the surrounding tissues but do not metastasize, which distinguishes them from typical malignant tumors. A known example of a locally malignant tumor is basal cell carcinoma. Although we refer to it as cancer, it typically does not metastasize distant but can infiltrate surrounding tissues.

Basal cell carcinoma originates from the cells of the basal layer of the epidermis (more precisely, from the non-keratinized cells of this layer). It is the most common cancer that affects the skin. It can appear anywhere on our body, but is most often located on the head (typically on the face) and neck. Basal cell carcinoma is most often a nodule surrounded by a characteristic, rolled rim.

This lump may ulcerate and enlarge over time. Treatment of basal cell carcinoma typically involves excision of the lesion with a small margin of he althy skin.

Basal cell carcinoma has a very good survival prognosis, which definitely distinguishes it from typical malignant neoplasms such as lung cancer.

Cancer - what is it?

Cancer (carcinoma) is a malignant tumor that originates in the epithelium. Epithelial tissues line the digestive tract and nasal cavity, among other things. Epithelial cells in our body are derived from three germ layers:

  • from the mesoderm - the epithelium of the renal tubules is derived from this germ layer, it should be noted here that the mesoderm can form both cancer and sarcoma (i.e. a malignant tumor originating from mesenchymal tissue),
  • from endoderm - intestinal epithelium,
  • from ectoderm - skin cells and thus - skin cancers.

Crayfish often have additional terms that tell us what kind of epithelial cells they come from. We distinguish among others:

  • squamous cell carcinomas - these neoplasms are composed of cells that resemble a multilayered squamous epithelium, such cancers typically appear in the mouth, bronchi, esophagus, but also in the throat,
  • adenocarcinomas - in this case the cells of this tumor form glandular structures. These types of cancers are typically diagnosed in the digestive tract, endocrine glands, pancreas, but also in the liver, lungs and kidneys,
  • urothelial carcinomas - come from the transitional epithelium that lines the urinary tract (including the bladder, ureters, pelviskidney),
  • anaplastic carcinomas - in this case it is not possible to recognize what type of epithelium a given cancer originates from, such neoplasms are also called undifferentiated malignant neoplasms.

What is a tumor? Is the tumor cancer?

It should be clearly stated that not every tumor is cancer, and what's more - not every tumor is cancer at all. For example, a tumor is an enlarged organ that a doctor can sense through the abdominal wall.

Tumors (and nodules smaller than one centimeter) are also skin eruptions (changes) (in dermatology) that are elevated above the skin level and result from processes taking place in the dermis and even in the subcutaneous tissue . Tumors are also often called cysts or inflammatory changes, but also hematomas, such as post-traumatic changes.

In conclusion, we should not use the words tumor, cancer and neoplasm interchangeably. They are not synonyms - they do not mean the same thing.

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