A neoplasm is a type of abnormal and excessive growth, called neoplasia, of tissue. The growth of a neoplasm is uncoordinated with that of the normal surrounding tissue, and it persists growing abnormally, even if the original trigger is removed. This abnormal growth usually (but not always) forms a mass. When it forms a mass, it may be called a tumor.
ICD-10 classifies neoplasms into four main groups: benign neoplasms, in situ neoplasms, malignant neoplasms, and neoplasms of uncertain or unknown behavior. Malignant neoplasms are also simply known as cancers and are the focus of oncology.
Prior to the abnormal growth of tissue, as neoplasia, cells often undergo an abnormal pattern of growth, such as metaplasia or dysplasia. However, metaplasia or dysplasia does not always progress to neoplasia. The word is from Ancient Greek νέος- neo (“new”) and πλάσμα plasma (“formation”, “creation”).
|-plasia and -trophy|
A neoplasm can be benign, potentially malignant, or malignant (cancer).
Neoplastic tumors are often heterogeneous and contain more than one type of cell, but their initiation and continued growth is usually dependent on a single population of neoplastic cells. These cells are presumed to be clonal – that is, they are derived from the same cell, and all carry the same genetic or epigeneticanomaly – evident of clonality. For lymphoid neoplasms, e.g. lymphoma and leukemia, clonality is proven by the amplification of a single rearrangement of their immunoglobulin gene (for B cell lesions) or T cell receptor gene (for T cell lesions). The demonstration of clonality is now considered to be necessary to identify a lymphoid cell proliferation as neoplastic.
It is tempting to define neoplasms as clonal cellular proliferations but the demonstration of clonality is not always possible. Therefore, clonality is not required in the definition of neoplasia.
Tumor (American English) or tumour (British English), Latin for swelling, one of the cardinal signs of inflammation, originally meant any form of swelling, neoplastic or not. Current English, however, both medical and non-medical, uses tumor as a synonym for a neoplasm (a solid or fluid-filled cystic lesion that may or may not be formed by an abnormal growth of neoplastic cells) that appears enlarged in size. Some neoplasms do not form a tumor; these include leukemia and most forms of carcinoma in situ. Tumor is also not synonymous with cancer. While cancer is by definition malignant, a tumor can be benign, precancerous, or malignant.
The terms mass and nodule are often used synonymously with tumor. Generally speaking, however, the term tumor is used generically, without reference to the physical size of the lesion. More specifically, the term mass is often used when the lesion has a maximal diameter of at least 20 millimeters (mm) in greatest direction, while the term nodule is usually used when the size of the lesion is less than 20 mm in its greatest dimension (25.4 mm = 1 inch).
A neoplasm can be caused by an abnormal proliferation of tissues, which can be caused by genetic mutations. Not all types of neoplasms cause a tumorous overgrowth of tissue, however (such as leukemia or carcinoma in situ) and similarities between neoplasmic growths and regenerative processes, e.g., dedifferentiation and rapid cell proliferation, have been pointed out .
Recently, tumor growth has been studied using mathematics and continuum mechanics. Vascular tumors (formed from blood vessels) are thus looked at as being amalgams of a solid skeleton formed by sticky cells and an organic liquid filling the spaces in which cells can grow. Under this type of model, mechanical stresses and strains can be dealt with and their influence on the growth of the tumor and the surrounding tissue and vasculature elucidated. Recent findings from experiments that use this model show that active growth of the tumor is restricted to the outer edges of the tumor, and that stiffening of the underlying normal tissue inhibits tumor growth as well.
Benign conditions that are not associated with an abnormal proliferation of tissue (such as sebaceous cysts) can also present as tumors, however, but have no malignant potential. Breast cysts (as occur commonly during pregnancy and at other times) are another example, as are other encapsulated glandular swellings (thyroid, adrenal gland, pancreas).
Encapsulated hematomas, encapsulated necrotic tissue (from an insect bite, foreign body, or other noxious mechanism), keloids (discrete overgrowths of scar tissue) and granulomas may also present as tumors.
Discrete localized enlargements of normal structures (ureters, blood vessels, intrahepatic or extrahepatic biliary ducts, pulmonary inclusions, or gastrointestinal duplications) due to outflow obstructions or narrowings, or abnormal connections, may also present as a tumor. Examples are arteriovenous fistulae or aneurysms (with or without thrombosis), biliary fistulae or aneurysms, sclerosing cholangitis, cysticercosis or hydatid cysts, intestinal duplications, and pulmonary inclusions as seen with cystic fibrosis. It can be dangerous to biopsy a number of types of tumor in which the leakage of their contents would potentially be catastrophic. When such types of tumors are encountered, diagnostic modalities such as ultrasound, CT scans, MRI, angiograms, and nuclear medicine scans are employed prior to (or during) biopsy or surgical exploration/excision in an attempt to avoid such severe complications.
The nature of a tumor is determined by imaging, by surgical exploration, or by a pathologist after examination of the tissue from a biopsy or a surgical specimen.