Difference Between Tumor and Neoplasm

Main Difference – Tumor vs Neoplasm

Tumor and Neoplasm are two terms used in Oncology. Many medical professionals  suggest that both these terms refer to the same type of abnormal cellular growth which can either be benign or malignant. Thus these terms are often used interchangeably. However, some experts suggest that there is a difference between tumor and neoplasm; according to them, a tumor is a swelling or lump without any inflammation whereas a neoplasm refers to new growth, lesion or ulcer.

What is a Tumor

Defined as an abnormal growth of body tissues, tumors can be divided into benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous), depending on various factors deciding their abnormal cellular growth.

Tumors usually take place as a result of excessive cellular growth and division in the body. In healthy people, the body has control in the mechanisms of cell growth and division which includes the formation of new cells and replacement of older or damaged cells with new ones. If this balance of cell growth and death is disrupted, a tumor will develop and come into action.

Genetic factors, UV rays exposure, radiation, chemicals like Benzene, smoking, tobacco, and viruses are known to be the commonest causes for various tumors developing in the body.

Symptoms of tumors mainly depend on the location and severity. For example lung tumors can result in shortness of breath, chronic cough, bleeding with cough (Hemoptysis) or chest pain whereas tumors in the colon can result in rectal bleeding and altered bowel habits. However, a person having a tumor usually complain of general symptoms such as fatigue, loss of weight and loss of appetite, unexplained fever, night sweats, chills, etc.

Major modalities in the diagnosis of tumor include biopsy, CT or MRI and positron emission tomography (PET) Other tests may include blood tests (full blood count, liver function test), bone marrow biopsy (lymphoma or leukemia) and chest x-ray.

As far as the treatment of tumors are concerned, they are mainly based on the type of tumor, location, severity and health and fitness of the patient. A non-cancerous or benign tumor could be managed by watchful waiting and routine follow-ups although some will have to be removed surgically for cosmetic reasons and symptomatic issues. On the other hand, cancerous or malignant growth will often require chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, targeted cancer therapy and biological therapy.

The prognosis of a patient affected by a tumor depends on the type and its severity. If the tumor is benign, the prognosis will be generally very good, but exceptions can be there as ones in the brain which could give rise to several neurological consequences. In contrast, cancerous growths usually have a poor prognosis, but it all depends on the factors mentioned above along with the stage at diagnosis. In fact, some cancers can be cured without much effort whereas some are fatal and could only be managed symptomatically with the help of palliative care.Difference Between Tumor and Neoplasm

What is a Neoplasm

This is Greek word with the meaning NEO-new PLASM-growth, which basically gives an idea of new growth which is caused by the rapid division of cells which have often undergone some sort of a mutation.

Difference Between Tumor and Neoplasm

Despite the difference between the meanings of each term discussed above, most of the scientists suggest that both neoplasm and tumor refer to the same type of abnormal cellular growth which can either be benign or malignant.

In contrast, some experts in the field suggest that tumor refers to a swelling or lump without any inflammation whereas neoplasm refers to new growth, lesion or ulcer which may or may not be associated with inflammation.

However, it is better to keep both these ideas in mind, since they can be used in different ways in describing the same patient or different patients with similar conditions.

Image Courtesy:

“Diagram showing how cancer cells keep on reproducing to form a tumor CRUK 127″ By Cancer Research UK – Original email from CRUK via

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music


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