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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]

Swollen left ankle following a sprain Here, the tumor is the result of edema caused by inflammation.


A Tumor or tumour (via Old French tumour from Latin tumor "swelling")[1] originally meant an abnormal swelling of the flesh. In contemporary English, tumor has evolved to become synonymous with neoplasia [2], all other forms being called swelling [3]. This tendency has also become common in medical literature. The noun tumefaction, derived from the adjective tumefied, is the current medical term for non-neoplastic tumors [4].


Tumors and/or swellings can be caused by:

  • Neoplasia, an abnormal proliferation of tissues. Most (not all) neoplasms cause a tumor. Neoplasms (or tumors) may be benign or malignant (cancer).
  • Non-neoplastic causes :
    • Inflammation, by far the most common cause; tumor is one of the classic signs of inflammation.[5] The lump following a blow on the head is a typical example. Infection is another common cause of inflammation.
    • Edema, the accumulation of an excessive amount of fluid in the tissues, either with or without inflammation.
    • Malformation, a congenital anomaly in the architecture of a tissue. A typical example is an epidermal nevus.
    • Cyst, the accumulation of fluid in a closed structure. Breast cysts are a typical example.
    • Hemorrhage in a closed structure.

Other forms of swelling are part of the normal functions of the body and may or may not be included as causes of tumor. Examples include enlargement of the uterus in pregnancy and erection of the penis.

This article is intentionally kept short. For a detailed discussion, see Cancer.


  1. Template:Dorlands
  2. Tumor in MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia]
  3. swelling, in MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia
  4. Template:Dorlands
  5. "eMedicine/Stedman Medical Dictionary Lookup!". Retrieved 2008-01-08.


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