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What Exactly is a Tumor?

What Exactly is a Tumor?

Spotting cancer at an early stage can save lives. There are more than 200 different types of cancer that can cause different symptoms, and it’s not possible for everyone to know all of them. But knowing yourself and what’s normal for your body means you’re more likely to recognize something different.

If you find a lump on your body that you suspect could be a tumor, have it checked by a doctor immediately. The earlier a tumor can be identified, the sooner it can be treated.

What is a Tumor?

The definition of a tumor is a mass of tissue that is formed by an accumulation of abnormal cells. In a normal situation, the cells in the body age, die and get replaced with new cells. When cancer or other tumors are involved, this cycle is disrupted. The difference is that tumor cells grow and they do not die. The body does not use them, and therefore the tumor continues to grow as more cells are added to the mass.

Tumor Types

Tumor sizes can vary from miniscule to the size of a baseball, and they are not necessarily always cancerous. In some cases, tumor types cannot be determined because it might be changing rapidly. But generally, there are three groups of tumors: 

  • Benign: These tumors are not cancerous and do not spread. This tumor will remain in its current form and size and can often be removed. They do not typically return.
  • Premalignant: These tumors are not yet cancerous but appear to be developing the properties of cancer. This type of tumor requires close monitoring.
  • Malignant: These tumors are cancerous, as they can grow, spread and continue to get worse.


To properly diagnose a tumor and determine if it is malignant or not, a surgeon must take a sample (or biopsy) and send it to a laboratory. There, a pathologist will examine it under a microscope.

There are three different biopsy types:

  • Excisional (surgical removal of the entire lump)
  • Incisional (sample of tumor is removed)
  • Needle aspiration (fluid or sample tissue removed)

Many factors determine the type of biopsy that will be taken. Samples are often taken from different parts of the tumor, for the most accurate results.

The good news? There are many signs of hope as cancer treatments have advanced. Proton therapy is effective in treating many types of tumors, including some non-cancerous ones. Only a doctor can help determine the best form of treatment.

To learn more, visit www.sccaprotontherapy.com/cancers-treated.