For many who hear the term abnormal cell growth, the first thought is cancer. In fact, when cells divide out of control, they create growths called neoplasms that are just the beginning of understanding what may be happening within the body. Growths such as moles can be classified as neoplasms and, most of the time, they are harmless. Neoplasms are complex and far from absolute. When a medical test shows a mass or tumor on an organ or bone, it is best to remember that there is a lot of ground to cover between that and a life-threatening diagnosis.

Types of Neoplasm

Benign neoplasms are non-cancerous and extremely common; malignant neoplasms are cancerous manifestations that spread in various ways depending on the circumstances. In situ neoplasms are pre-malignant growths that grow and progress in the same place. The fact that they have not spread is good news but, if they go untreated for a prolonged period, they can become cancerous.

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Neoplasm of Uncertain Behavior

Neoplasm of unknown or uncertain behavior is another type that can be confusing. This diagnostic term means that the growth is currently benign, but its tissue behavior indicates that it could become malignant over time. This is a legitimate diagnosis that is not the same as a "neoplasm of unspecified behavior," which means the tests are inconclusive in terms of the growth's behavior, and the doctor cannot classify it as malignant, benign, or in situ.

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Neoplasms vs. Cysts

Neoplasms are sometimes classified as neutral tumors until tested. Similar to in situ neoplasms, primary neoplasms grow in the same place, but usually yield cancerous masses. By contrast, a secondary neoplasm indicates the growth has spread from the original site. Most cancers are classified as malignant neoplastic diseases that render neoplasms. Cysts can be large or small, but most are soft masses caused by infected or blocked ducts. Most cysts are benign, but some harbor cancerous growths.

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Exogenous DNA Damage

Exogenous sources of DNA damage are caused by external factors that can result in a neoplasm. UV exposure, chemicals, and ionizing radiation, which derives from radioactive decay or X-rays, fall into this category. The resulting damage alters the DNA evolutionary process and disrupts its repair systems, causing oxidative stress and chronic inflammation, which work together to create neoplasms.

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Virus Infection

According to the World Health Organization, roughly 15% of the nearly 10 million cancer deaths that occur each year stem from cancer-causing viruses such as hepatitis and human papillomavirus (HPV). These infections work by reprogramming DNA to target tumor suppressor proteins like p53 and pRB. Because part of this process includes breaking the DNA of the virus and the body, this could lead to accelerated damage that prompts abnormal cell growth.

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Injury and Neoplasm

Tissue injury can lead to neoplasm growth. For example, continuous injury to the liver due to excessive alcohol consumption can compromise the organ's function and increase the risk of carcinoma three to 10-fold. Likewise, chronic stomach ulcer infections of the H. pylori bacteria can lead to stomach cancer. Necrotic cell death can also spur neoplasm growth. Necrosis causes cell rupture, and this sudden release of the dead cells' contents inflames the system and triggers neoplasm progression.

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Plasma Cell Neoplasms

Plasma cells are white blood cells, specifically B lymphocytes, that are created in the marrow and generate antibodies to fight infections. Plasma cell neoplasms occur when abnormal plasma cells grow out of control and not only form tumors, but create myeloma protein (M protein) in the process. M protein can thicken the blood and damage the kidneys.

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Most Common Neoplasm

In 2018, WHO data showed that breast and lung cancers were the most common cancers in the world, which meant that breasts and lungs were usual growth locations. In the breast, the milk ducts are the most likely starting points. Granulomas and hamartomas are the most common benign neoplasms of the lung, and they tend to recur 10 to 15 percent of the time after treatment.

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Signs of Neoplasm

While indicators depend on the location and status of each neoplasm, one of the most common symptoms of malignant neoplasms is anemia. Studies show that the production change in pro-inflammatory cytokines causes the premature death of blood cells in the bone marrow, leading to anemia. Other common symptoms are fever and chills, though they are non-specific and depend on many factors. In some cases, when neoplasms are significant, the person may feel well, while another individual with a smaller lesion may exhibit these and other signs. These so-called constitutional symptoms should prompt someone to seek medical care.

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Treatment Options

Neoplasms in solid structures can be imaged by MRI, CT, or ultrasound. Once found, the doctor will order a biopsy for further classification. In the case of a benign growth, surgery to remove it is the usual course of treatment. For times when surgery is not an option, physicians may choose ablation — subjecting the tumor to extreme temperatures — or embolization, which cuts blood flow to the mass. Chemotherapy and targeted radiation are mostly for precancerous and cancerous neoplasms. Doctors may also prescribe hormone-suppressing drugs and immunotherapy.

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