Tumor Cell Facts

According to the National Cancer Institute, a tumor is the name given to an abnormal mass of tissue. Tumors occur when cells divide more than they should or do not die when they should. Tumors that are malignant form cancer, but some tumors are benign and relatively harmless. Learn more about tumor cells with these key facts.

What causes tumor cells to develop?

Tumors occur in the human body for a host of different reasons. Smoking is one of the most common causes of a tumor, as well as problems with the body's immune system. Exposure to certain chemicals, such as benzene, is believed to cause tumors. Excessive exposure to unfiltered sunlight is a common cause of skin tumors.

What are the symptoms of a tumor?

The symptoms of a tumor vary considerably, according to the body parts affected. Lung tumors, for example, may cause coughing, shortness of breath and chest pain. Alternatively, a tumor in the colon will cause symptoms related to the digestive system, such as weight loss, constipation or bleeding. There are, however, a number of symptoms that are commonly associated with all tumors. Most tumor patients experience fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss and other symptoms caused by the tumor cells.

How do doctors treat tumor cells?

The tests required to diagnose a tumor vary according to the part of the body that is affected. Some tumors are easier to detect than others. Skin cancer, for example, can often be detected with a basic physical examination, but most tumors require more complicated diagnostic methods. A biopsy is most commonly used to detect tumor cells. This involves removing a small sample of tissue to test for tumor cells. Other tests include blood tests, bone marrow biopsies and X-rays.

How are tumor cells treated?

There is no single course of action required to treat tumor cells, nor will one patient necessarily respond to treatment in the same way as another. In many cases, if the tumor cells are benign, no treatment will be necessary at all. For malignant tumor cells, treatment options include surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Chemotherapy involves drugs, which kill tumor cells in order to prevent further growth. In some cases, combinations of these treatment options are used to achieve the best results.

Are all tumors fatal?

The outlook for a tumor varies considerably according to the nature of the tumor cells. Benign cells generally offer a good outlook, except for circumstances when the tumor cells are in a dangerous location such as the brain. Many malignant tumors can now be cured, and while some others cannot be cured, modern medicine is able to greatly prolong a patient's life. Unfortunately, some tumors pose a significant and immediate risk of death.

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