Neoplastic disease is the excessive division of cells, due to a variety of causes, that results in the formation of atypical bodies of tissue called neoplasms. A neoplasm can form virtually anywhere in the body and is commonly referred to as a tumor. Although the words neoplasm or tumor tend to be used somewhat synonymously with cancer, neoplasms can also just as commonly be benign or premalignant as malignant. There are a number of potential causes, symptoms, and diagnosis techniques of neoplastic disease as well as different treatment options and prognoses.
A number of risk factors have been identified for the development of neoplastic disease. Lifestyle habits such as excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, and obesity are all known to contribute to the disease. Likewise, genetic predisposition and immune system complications are also factors. Neoplasms are also caused by viruses such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and hepatitis B. Chemical and environmental toxins, radiation, and excessive sun exposure are also known to play roles.
The symptoms of neoplastic disease vary in both their type and severity. They tend to be related to the location of the neoplasm and can often be somewhat generalized. Typical symptoms can include anemia, fatigue, and night sweats, with other symptoms such as shortness of breath, diarrhea, and weight loss also being common. Sometimes, there are visible or palatable symptoms, including skin lesions or a lump under the skin. In some cases, the disease is asymptomatic, or the symptoms may not be apparent until the disease is well advanced.
Neoplastic disease is diagnosed in a number of ways. The most confirmatory method is biopsy, where the cellular components of the neoplasm are examined. This process can confirm the diagnosis and also determine the malignancy and type of growth. Computerized axial tomography (CAT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and positron emission tomography (PET) are employed after diagnosis to chart the entirety of the location, size, and possible spread of the disease. Blood tests, including both for general blood profile and for tumor markers, are also carried out, and bone marrow biopsies are common for neoplastic diseases such as leukemia.
Treatment options for neoplastic disease vary with the type of growth. Benign neoplasms generally do not require any treatment, although they may be removed if they are exerting pressure on organs or nerves. Surface lesions may require cosmetic removal. Malignant forms of neoplastic disease typically require surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy and often a combination of all three. If the cancer has spread to organs such as the lymph nodes, these are also often removed to prevent further spread.
The prognosis for patients affected with neoplastic disease varies based on the degree of malignancy, type, and location of the neoplasm. A benign neoplasm has a better prognosis than malignant conditions, but even malignant neoplasms are often treatable. Some forms and locations are easier to treat than others and respond better to different treatment options.