Benign is a descriptive word that can mean different things depending on how it is used. Pathologists may use the word benign when describing one of the following:
The opposite of benign is malignant.
A benign tumour is a large group of non-cancerous cells that are growing faster than the normal cells around them. Because they are growing faster than the normal cells, the tumour cells form a mass than stands out from the surrounding tissue.
While benign tumours can still cause damage by compressing nearby structures, such as other organs, nerves, or blood vessels, most benign tumours cannot travel other parts of the body. The movement of tumour cells to another part of the body is called metastasis and this is usually only seen with cancerous (malignant) tumours.
One of the most important decisions a pathologist has to make everyday is deciding whether a tumour is benign or malignant (a cancer). To help them make this decision, pathologists examine a sample of the tumour under the microscope and look for the following features: