Do Benign Tumors Need to Be Removed?   

Do Benign Tumors Need to Be Removed?

Surgeon looking at a scan of a tumor

January 18, 2023

Clinical Contributors to this story:
Nitesh Patel, M.D.

There’s no doubt that any cancer diagnosis or tumor discovery is scary.  “Often patients are alarmed, afraid of a cancer diagnosis, when they hear the word ‘tumor,’” says Nitesh V. Patel, M.D., co-director of the Neurosurgical Oncology program at Jersey Shore University Medical Center. “But not all tumors are cancerous.”

Tumors can be categorized as benign or malignant (cancerous) and can be found in nearly any part of the body. Here’s what you should know about benign tumors and how they may be treated.   

What’s the Difference Between a Benign Tumor and a Cancerous Tumor?

A benign tumor:

  • Grows in one part of the body
  • It has a distinct border and has not invaded or destroyed nearby tissue
  • Usually does not grow as fast as a malignant tumor
  • Typically does not have significant genetic mutations or abnormalities 

On the other hand, cancerous tumors: 

  • Are more likely to infiltrate surrounding tissue and even potentially break off and spread to other sites in the body
  • Have cell nucleus abnormalities and genetic mutations

“We usually can pin down the diagnosis of a tumor based on a patient’s history and imaging features,” Dr. Patel says. “However, a true diagnosis most often requires a tissue sample to be examined by our expert neuropathologists.”

Does a Benign Tumor Need to Be Removed?

That depends, Dr. Patel says. If the benign tumor is small, not growing and not causing any harm to the patient, it can be left alone. Even benign tumors in or around the brain only need to be removed if they are causing, or are likely to cause, neurological problems.

However, if the tumor shows signs of growth, a doctor may decide it is best to remove it as long as the patient can tolerate surgery. For example, surgery may be recommended for a 60-year-old patient whose tumor is showing some small growth because he or she is likely to tolerate the surgery better now than when they are older. It may also be removed if it is interfering with the patient’s ability to function or for aesthetic reasons. 

On the other hand, if a patient has a tumor that is growing very slowly, but is 85-years-old with other health complications, they might be advised that the risks of surgery are more significant than leaving the tumor in place.

What Happens When a Tumor Is Discovered?

Not all lumps and bumps in or on a body are tumors. Some other causes are cysts, infections or abscesses. If you are concerned about a growth on your body, make an appointment with your doctor.  

If a cancerous tumor is found, your doctor will discuss your treatment options. By catching it early, the chances of successful treatment are increased. If the tumor is benign, Dr. Patel says it is common to simply observe the tumor at 6- or 12-month intervals to ensure it has not grown or changed.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



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