Last revised by Daniel J Bell on 19 Jan 2022

Neoplasms, also known as tumors, are pathological masses, caused by cells abnormally proliferating and/or not appropriately dying. Neoplasms may be either benign or malignant. Malignant neoplasms are synonymous with cancers.

Benign neoplasms
  • clear origin (unless very large)
  • slow growth 
  • usually well-defined margins
  • do not metastasize
  • do not invade adjacent organs/tissues
  • may transform, i.e. become malignant
  • often asymptomatic, increased mortality unlikely
Malignant neoplasms
  • origin not always clear
  • variable growth, usually faster than benign tumors
  • often ill-defined margins
  • may metastasize to lymph nodes, distant organs
  • may invade adjacent organs/tissues
  • often symptomatic and potentially lethal 

History and etymology

Neoplasm is derived from two Greek root words, νεος (neos) meaning 'new' and πλασμα (plasma) meaning 'a molded object' 3,4.

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