Neoplasia (nee-oh-PLAY-zhuh) is the uncontrolled, abnormal growth of cells or tissues in the body, and the abnormal growth itself is called a neoplasm (nee-oh-PLAZ-m) or tumor. It can be benign (bee-NINE) or malignant. Benign neoplasms do not grow aggressively, do not invade the surrounding body tissues, and do not spread throughout the body. Malignant neoplasms, on the other hand, tend to grow rapidly, invade the tissues around them, and spread, or metastasize (me-TAS-ta-size), to other parts of the body.
The word “tumor” or “mass” is often used to describe the actual swelling or other physical appearance of a neoplasm. The word “cancer” is often confused with neoplasia, but only malignant neoplasms are truly cancers.
Exact causes of tumor growth are still being researched. In general, cancerous tumor growth is triggered by DNA mutations within your cells. Your DNA contains genes that tell cells how to operate, grow, and divide. When the DNA changes within your cells, they don’t function properly. This disconnection is what causes cells to become cancerous.
There are a number of contributing factors that can cause your genes to mutate and result in benign or malignant tumor growth. Some common factors include:
- sun overexposure
- immune disorders
- overexposure to radiation
- chemical toxins
Symptoms of neoplastic disease greatly depend on where the neoplasm is located.
Regardless of type, there are some common symptoms of neoplastic disease:
- shortness of breath
- abdominal pain
- persistent fatigue
- loss of appetite
- bloody stools
- skin masses
In some cases, neoplastic diseases show no symptoms.
The most common symptom of breast cancer is a mass or lump. If you find a mass on your breast, don’t self-diagnose. Not all masses are cancerous.
If your breast neoplasm is cancerous, you may experience symptoms such as:
- redness or irritation
- change in breast shape
If you develop a tumor in your lymph nodes or tissues, you may notice swelling or a mass in the affected area. A cancerous neoplasm in your lymph tissues is referred to as lymphoma.
Other symptoms of lymphoma include:
- increased swelling in your neck, armpits, or groin
- weight loss
- night sweats
Neoplasms can also affect your skin and may result in skin cancer. Some of the more common symptoms associated with this form of cancer include:
- open sores
- itchy or painful rashes
- a mole that may bleed
To properly diagnose neoplastic disease, your doctor will first determine if the neoplasms are benign or malignant. Your doctors will conduct a thorough examination of your medical history, blood tests, and possibly a biopsy on visible masses.
Other tests used to diagnose neoplastic diseases and cancers include:
- CT scans
- MRI scans
- PET scans