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Tumors by Name

A series of discoveries in the nineteenth century has led our current knowledge and understanding of how cells and tissues arise and how a tumor is named. One of the most important discoveries was that all tissues are composed of cells and cell products, and that all cells arise from the division of pre-existing cells. Cells that divide more than they should, or do not die when they should, may form an abnormal mass, called a tumor.

The origin of cancerous cells, where the disease of cancer begins, is called the primary tumor. Metastasis is the spread of cancer cells from one part of the body to another. The metastatic tumor contains cells that are like those in the original (primary) tumor and are therefore named accordingly. Those tumors that grow locally without invading adjacent tissues are classified as benign and those tumors that invade nearby tissues and result in metastasis are classified as malignant, and are again named accordingly.

For each tumor name listed below, specific terminology is used to denote the tissue type or cell origin of the tumor and whether the tumor is benign or malignant. For more information about specific tumors by tissue type please see the Tumors by Location section of this website.

To better understand cancer terminology, visit the Cancer Dictionary at the website of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institute of Health (NIH).

You can visit the Tumors and Specialized Cell Types page to learn more about the 4 major categories of tumors.

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Adenocarcinoma

A malignant form of cancer that begins in cells that line certain internal organs and that have gland-like (secretory) properties.

Adenoma

A benign tumor that starts in gland-like cells of the epithelial (cells that line cavities and surfaces of the body) tissue.

Astrocytoma

A benign or malignant tumor that begins in the brain or spinal cord in small, star-shaped cells called astrocytes.

Carcinoma

A malignant tumor that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.

Chondroma

A benign tumor containing the structural elements of cartilage.

Chondrosarcoma

A type of malignant cancer that forms from cartilage.

Cystadenoma

A benign tumor in gland like cells of epithelial tissue forming a closed sac having a distinct membrane and developing abnormally in a body cavity or structure.

Dysgerminoma

A malignant or benign tumor (as of the ovary or testis) that originates from undifferentiated embryonic germ cells.

Erythroid Leukemia

A malignant acute or chronic cancer of unknown cause in animals that involves the blood-forming organs, is characterized by an abnormal increase in the number of red blood cells in the tissues of the body.

Fibroma

A benign tumor consisting of fibrous tissue.

Fibrosarcoma

A type of soft tissue sarcoma consisting chiefly of spindle-shaped cells that begins in fibrous tissue, which holds bones, muscles, and other organs in place. This tumor tends to be locally invasive, but has a low rate of metastasis.

Granulosa Cell Tumor

A benign or malignant tumor of estrogen-secreting cells of the epithelial lining of an ovary.

Hemangioma

A benign tumor made up of blood vessels that typically occurs as a purplish or reddish slightly elevated area of skin.

Hemangiosarcoma

A malignant tumor made up of blood vessels that typically occurs in the spleen or right atrium of the heart.

Leiomyoma

A benign smooth muscle tumor, usually in the uterus or gastrointestinal tract. Also called fibroid.

Leiomyosarcoma

A malignant (cancerous) tumor of smooth muscle cells that can arise almost anywhere in the body, but is most common in the uterus or abdominal organs.

Leydig Cell Tumor

A benign tumor of interstitial tissue of the testis that is considered the chief source of the testicular hormones; testosterone.

Lipoma

A benign tumor of fatty tissue (adipocyte).

Liposarcoma

A malignant soft tissue tumor (sarcoma) arising from immature fat cells.

Lymphoblastic Leukemia

A malignant cancer of the blood characterized by an abnormal increase in the number of lymphoblasts (immature lymphocytes).

Lymphocytic Leukemia

A malignant cancer of the blood characterized by an abnormal increase in the number of white blood cells, specifically lymphocytes, which accumulate in bone marrow, lymphoid tissue (lymph nodes and spleen), and circulating blood.

Lymphoma

A malignant tumor of lymphoid tissue.

Malignant Histiocytosis

A malignant tumor of histiocytes, which originate from monocytes and macrophages. Typically involves lymph nodes and lungs, as well as other abdominal organs.

Malignant Melanoma

A malignant tumor that begins in melanocytes (cells that make the pigment melanin).

Mast Cell Tumor

A malignant tumor of mast cells (a type of inflammatory cell). Mast cell tumors can involve the skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscle tissue, as well as lymph nodes and other organs.

Melanocytoma

A benign tumor of melanocytes (cells that produce the pigment melanin).

Meningioma

A benign type of slow-growing tumor that forms in the meninges (thin layers of tissue that cover and protect the brain and spinal cord).

Mesothelioma

A benign (noncancerous) or malignant (cancerous) tumor affecting the lining of the chest or abdomen.

Multiple Myeloma

A type of malignant cancer that begins in plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies).  Often associated with an elevation in blood proteins, with potentially bone and bone marrow involvement.

Myeloid Leukemia

A malignant leukemia (cancer of blood or bone marrow) characterized by proliferation of myeloid tissue (bone marrow and spleen) and an abnormal increase in the number of myeloid cells (non-lymphoid cells).

Oligodendroglioma

A rare benign, slow-growing tumor that begins in oligodendrocytes (cells that cover and protect nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord).

Osteoma

A benign tumor composed of bone tissue.

Osteosarcoma

A malignant tumor of the bone that usually affects the long bones of the arm or leg.

Plasmacytoma

A type of cancer that tends to have a benign behavior and begins in plasma cells (white blood cells that produce antibodies).

Rhabdomyoma

A benign tumor composed of striated muscle fibers.

Rhabdomyosarcoma

A malignant tumor composed of striated muscle fibers.

Seminoma

A benign germ cell tumor of the testis.

Sertoli Cell Tumor

A benign tumor of the elongated striated cells in the seminiferous tubules of the testis.

Soft Tissue Sarcoma

A form of malignant cancer that develops in mesenchymal tissue: the muscle, connective tissues, and bones of the body.  Includes peripheral nerve sheath tumors, fibrosarcomas, etc.

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

A malignant tumor of squamous cells, which are thin, flat cells that look like fish scales located in the surface of  skin, the lining of the hollow organs in the body, and the passages of the respiratory and digestive tracts.

Squamous Papilloma

A benign tumor (wart) resulting from an overgrowth of epithelial tissue on the skin.

Synovial Cell Sarcoma

A malignant tumor that arises from cells that line joint capsules.

Thymoma

Encapsulated- A benign encapulated tumor of the thymus, an organ that is part of the lymphatic system and is located in the chest, behind the breastbone.
Invasive- A malignant tumor of the thymus that is part of the lymphatic system and spreads to other areas of the body.

Transitional Cell Carcinoma

A malignant tumor of transitional epithelial origin usually associated with the bladder.