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Benign Gynecological Tumors

The term benign implies a mild and non-progressive disease. A tumor is an abnormal growth resulting from uncontrolled multiplication of cells, and serving no physiological function.

The opposite of benign is malignancy, meaning cancer. Tumors are either benign or malignant, with an intermediate grade referred to as borderline. Benign growths are composed of cells which bear a strong resemblance to a normal cell type in their organ of origin. They lack the invasive properties of cancer. But benign tumors may have negative health effects, though the majority are harmless to human health.

There are many benign Gynecological conditions, arising from the vagina, uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes. Most benign tumors arise from the uterus and ovaries. Fibroids are the commonest, and arise from the uterus. Ovaries undergo cyclical changes in synchrony with the menstrual cycle, and are liable to developing benign swellings called simple cysts. Less commonly, benign swellings may occur in the vagina and fallopian tubes.

Most benign Gynecological tumors produce no symptoms, and are only diagnosed coincidentally when women get scanned for other reasons. However, some are associated with negative effects that may affect general health. Fibroids may be associated with heavy periods, and if very large, they may cause pressure symptoms. Benign ovarian cysts may enlarge and cause symptoms like pelvic pain, while vaginal swellings may interfere with sexual intercourse.

Once a Gynecological tumor is suspected, it must be categorised into either benign or malignant. Detailed personal and family medical history is reviewed, and the woman’s age is taken into account. Pelvic imaging is done to characterise the nature of the tumor and relate it to any symptoms. Benign tumors tend to have typical features on imaging; and that may be the only test required. Some tumors, especially ovarian, require additional tests to better define their nature. Such tests are called tumor markers and provide additional information that helps in differentiating benignity from malignancy.

Once the tumor is diagnosed as benign, treatment options depend on the prevailing symptoms, the woman’s age and future fertility desires. If the diagnosis is coincidental and no symptoms, nothing usually needs to be done. This is usually the case with fibroids which may be safely left alone, tending to regress in the menopause. Asymptomatic benign ovarian cysts tend to resolve spontaneously, hence they only need surveillance rather than unwarranted surgical intervention.

Regular reviews may be advised with certain benign tumors, while others do not require any specific follow-up. If new negative symptoms appear, this is usually a reason for Gynecological review. Benign ovarian cysts may be followed up with scheduled pelvic scans, and will often have disappeared by the time the next scan is due. Tumor markers may also be rechecked during follow-up visits.

Anyone with a benign Gynecological tumor must be informed of its nature, and be involved with decisions on treatment options.

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The term benign implies a mild and non-progressive disease. A tumor is an abnormal growth resulting from uncontrolled multiplication of cells, and serving no physiological function.

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