Difference Between Benign and Malignant

These two adjectives can be used to describe many conditions, but it is used mostly to describe tumors or neoplasms. A tumor or a neoplasm is a solid or fluid filled structure, may or may not be formed with a collection of neoplastic cells, which appear large in size. Here, when considering neoplasms, there is an abnormal, uncontrolled proliferation of cells causing a mass. These can be divided as benign and malignant. This division is based on the characteristics in pathological term, and as to what can be done regarding these tumours. So, this section will be an exercise in pathology.


A benign tumor is mild and non progressive. In general a benign tumour is assigned with the suffix –oma to the cell type to which the tumour arises. Benign tumours usually contain well differentiated cells, which mimic their normal variation, and usually the cells are of normal dimensions, and structured in the arrangement as seen in normal tissues. These are slow growing types, which are usually encapsulated to a single locale with a good blood supply and without any noticeable spread. The benign variety has no seeding of areas, which are long removed from the original site.


A malignant tumour is severe and progressive. A tumour of mesenchymal origin is termed a sarcoma, whereas a tumour of epithelial origin is termed a carcinoma. These do not have the usual differentiation, and are in varied stages of differentiation with varying sizes of cellular dimensions arranged in a haphazard way in deep contrast to the usual tissue structures. They are rapidly growing, as if out of the blue, and are not capsulated to a single station. They have a poor blood supply leading to necrotic areas to appear, also haemorragic areas to appear. They grow with progressive infiltration, invasion, destruction, and penetration of surrounding tissues. Malignant neoplasm disseminate around the body through hematogenic pathway, lymphatic pathway, and seeding of body cavities.

What is the difference between Benign and Malignant?

Both benign and malignant tumour entities occur due to abnormal proliferation of cells, because of derangement at the genetic level. They can cause an expanding mass, which can produce pressure symptoms, if it were to be in a restricted space. Some require surgical management due to these pressure symptoms. In contrast, a benign tumour is well differentiated and has typical cellular structure, whereas a malignant tumour, is poorly differentiated and has abnormal cellular structure. A benign tumour is slow and gradual in its growth, with no mitotic figures. A malignant tumour, is fast and erratic, with abundant mitotic figures. Benign tumours are well encapsulated with adequate blood supply and with almost absent local or distant invasion, whereas malignant tumours are non capsulated with poor blood supply, and with local destruction and penetration along with distant metastases, via multiple pathways.

The differences of benign and malignant transcend the pathology, reaching up to psychological. All the symptoms, signs, and investigative finding are due to these basic pathological features. Basically, a benign tumour can be restricted to a single location, thus surgical would suffice for treatment, whereas a malignant tumor spreads everywhere, and have difficulty in restriction, thus need for surgery to be supplemented with chemo or radiotherapy.