What is Neoplasia? - Definition, Types & Examples

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  • 0:07 New Cell Proliferation
  • 0:27 What Is Neoplasia?
  • 1:49 Benign v. Malignant Tumors
  • 2:29 Carcinoma in Situ
  • 5:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will discuss the concept of neoplasia. We'll specifically talk about the differences between benign tumors, carcinoma in situ, and malignant tumors. This lesson will also define metastasis and oncology and show examples of different types of malignant and benign tumors.

New Cell Proliferation

New things are great. A new car has a great smell. A new house is nice and clean and doesn't need repairs. A new haircut gets everyone talking at school or work. But new cells proliferating within your body may not necessarily be a good thing. This lesson will delve into why this may be the case.

What Is Neoplasia?

The word 'new' can more technically be seen as 'neo.' No, it has nothing to do with Keanu Reeves. 'Neo' is a prefix meaning 'new' in words like neoplasia, which is the abnormal growth and proliferation of abnormal cells or abnormal amounts of cells due to a benign or malignant process.

Neoplasia can be benign or malignant. A benign neoplasm, or a benign tumor, has several general characteristics, including the fact that:

  • It does not invade or destroy the surrounding tissue it is growing on
  • It does not spread to other parts of the body
  • It usually doesn't come back after surgical removal because the tumor itself has well-defined margins that help in its surgical removal

Typically, benign tumors grow slowly and have normal-looking cells and structures or are well-differentiated. This should be contrasted with cancer, or a malignant tumor, which in general:

  • Grows quickly
  • May metastasize, which is when cancer cells spread around the body
  • May come back after surgical removal due to irregular margins
  • Invades and destroys surrounding tissues
  • Has abnormal-looking cells or structures, which is also called 'poorly differentiated' or 'undifferentiated'

Examples of Benign vs. Malignant Tumors

Some examples of benign tumors include

  • Papillomas
  • Polyps
  • Meningioma

The important thing to note about this list is that even though they are benign tumors, they can kill you. For instance, a meningioma that grows to be too large in the brain can compress downwards onto your brain, resulting in seizures and death. Even though the meningioma may not spread around the body or invade the local tissue, only compress it, it can still kill you.

Examples of malignant tumors, or cancer, include

  • Lymphoma
  • Lung cancer
  • Breast cancer

And, unfortunately, a whole lot more.

Carcinoma in Situ

Finally, for this lesson, we must define another term. This term is known as carcinoma in situ. In its simplest form these are malignant cells that have not invaded deeper tissues and have not spread around the body. Again, the malignant cells stay at the superficial-most layer of the organ they are multiplying in, have not penetrated into the deeper layers of that organ, and have not spread around the body.

Furthermore, carcinoma in situ may not form a noticeable growth, or tumor, and may lie flat and simply proliferate within the normal architecture of the organ's superficial layers. The way to imagine the general differences between the benign tumors, cancer, and carcinoma in situ is as follows.

Let's pretend that you have a closed cardboard box filled to the brim with tissues. Typically, a benign tumor will be akin to you placing an apple on top of the box's top flaps. It just sits there like a lump and doesn't invade into the deeper layer inside the box, nor does it spread around the box. Once you take the apple off of the box, it disappears and doesn't come back.

A malignant tumor, or cancer, is like you taking a little octopus and putting it on top of the box. The octopus sits there like a lump, as per the apple, but it uses its tentacles to spread deep inside of the box and invade the surrounding tissues. In fact, many cancers display this tentacle-like spread around the area of its growth under the microscope. Furthermore, the octopus has lots of babies, and they spread all over the box, the nearby floor, and up and around the walls.

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