What is a Benign Tumour and Do I Need to Worry?

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A tumour, or neoplasm, is an abnormal collection of cells that form when cells multiply more than they should or do not die when they should. A tumour can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (not cancerous).

Virtually all bowel cancers begin as non-cancerous polyps. Detection and removal of these polyps will prevent cancer from forming. It is, therefore, extremely important that everyone over 50 has periodic screening for bowel cancer. Based on your medical history, your doctor will recommend which tests are appropriate for you.


What is a Benign Tumour?

A benign tumour is an abnormal collection of cells that are not cancerous (malignant). It grows more slowly, has distinct, smooth, regular borders, and does not spread to other parts of your body. A benign tumour may become quite large, but it will not spread into nearby tissues or invade other parts of your body. Benign tumours often do not require treatment.

In comparison, a malignant tumour has irregular borders and grows faster than a benign tumour. Malignant tumours spread to other parts of your body, causing widespread cancer disease.


Benign Tumours of the Bowel

A non-cancerous (benign) tumour of the bowel (colon or rectum) is a growth that does not spread (metastasise) to other parts of the body. Benign tumours are not usually life-threatening. Non-cancerous tumours of the bowel are usually found during a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy. They are removed and examined under a microscope to make an accurate diagnosis. Surgery to remove and analyse them is important to determine if cancer is present.


Polyps are attached to the inner lining of the colon or rectum. They usually protrude out from the lining and grow toward the hollow centre of the bowel. Polyps may cause blood in the stool or a change in bowel habits but often do not cause symptoms. Polyps are usually detected and removed by performing a colonoscopy procedure. This procedure involves using a wire that simultaneously removes the polyp and burns its base to prevent bleeding. Large polyps might need to be surgically removed, usually through minimally invasive methods.


Hyperplastic And Inflammatory Polyps

Hyperplastic polyps are the most common type of benign bowel tumour. They are usually small and are found in the rectum. Inflammatory polyps are usually found in people with an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as ulcerative colitis.



A hamartoma, also known as a hamartomatous polyp, can form in many parts of the body, including the bowel. These polyps usually do not cause any symptoms. If hamartomas are detected, more testing should be done to determine if you have 

Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome

This syndrome is a hereditary bowel condition that increases your risk of developing bowel cancer.


A lipoma originates in fat cells and can form anywhere in the body where there are fat cells, including the colon and rectum. Lipomas are usually not removed unless they are large and cause symptoms such as pain or a blockage in the intestine.

Do I need to Worry?

Some benign bowel tumours can become cancerous over time. If you have a benign tumour, your healthcare provider must monitor it regularly. Regular bowel screenings, which can rule out the presence of cancer, or detect it early, will allay your fears of developing cancer. Bowel screening is advised for anyone over 50 or with unusual bowel symptoms. 


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