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Neoplastic tumor of the cheek skin, here a benign neoplasm of the sweat glands called Hidradenoma.

A tumor or tumour is the name for a neoplasm or a solid lesion formed by an abnormal growth of cells (termed neoplastic) which looks like a swelling.[1] Tumor is not synonymous with cancer. A tumor can be benign, pre-malignant or malignant, whereas cancer is by definition malignant.



The term tumour / tumor is derived, from the Latin word for "swelling" tumor and has come to the english language via the Old French tumour (contemporary French : Tumeur). In Britain the spelling "Tumour" is commonly used, in the US it is shortened to "Tumor".

In its medical sense it originally meant an abnormal swelling of the flesh. In contemporary English, tumor is synonymous with solid neoplasm,[2] all other forms of swelling being called swelling.[3] This usage is common also in medical literature, where the nouns tumefaction and tumescence, derived from the adjective tumefied, are the current medical terms for non-neoplastic swelling.


According to medical literature there are 5 distinguishing characteristics of an abnormality (infection, or malformation)

   * tumor (swelling)
   * calor (heath : markable temperature difference with the surrounding tissue)
   * rubor (redness : difference in colour)
   * dolor (pain)
   * functio laesa (dysfunction : the inability to use a limb or organ fully).

Its important that a tumor can be benign or malign (usually measured on a shifting or continously graded scale).

Not every swelling is a tumor according to the definition, swelling can occur due to increased production of fluid (oedema), a cell groth or both. Examples :

  • A bump after a fall is primarily oedema, perhaps combined with soem red bloodcell from a localised microscopic hemorrage.
  • In case of a carbuncle the content is oedema, infectious bacteria, white cells and pus
  • In a Sebaceous cyst the cavity is filled with tallow-like material.
  • A wart is considered a tumor albeit benign.
  • Finally there are malignent tumors that are of cancerous origin like the Glioblastoma Multiform


A neoplasm is an abnormal proliferation of tissues, usually caused by genetic mutations. Most neoplasms cause a tumor, with a few exceptions like leukemia or carcinoma in situ.

A tumor may be benign, pre-malignant or malignant. The nature of the tumor is determined by a pathologist after examination of the tumor tissues from a biopsy or a surgical excision specimen.


  1. ^ Tumor at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  2. ^ Tumor in MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
  3. ^ Swelling in MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also tumor


German Wikipedia has an article on:

Wikipedia de


Tumor m. (genitive Tumors, plural Tumoren or Tumore)

  1. tumor, tumour


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