Carlo Palmieri and Anjana Singh explain some basic concepts
Cancer is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality. So a working knowledge of the basic concepts of cancer medicine is essential for doctors of all specialties.
Tumour, carcinoma, malignancy, and neoplasia are often used interchangeably when people talk about cancers. The following are the correct definitions.
This is synonymous with the medical meaning of cancer.
You may also hear the term carcinomatosis being used by doctors. This refers to disseminated cancer - that is, widespread metastases.
An often asked examination question is, “What is the difference between a benign and a malignant tumour?” Unfortunately, there is no single feature, which distinguishes a benign from a malignant tumour. As always a full history and clinical examination is essential. Particular attention should be paid to regional lymph nodes and liver and lungs for distant metastasis. Table 1 summarises the major distinguish- ing features in the history and examination of benign and