The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 04-22-2008, 02:52 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 1999
Location: South Carolina
Posts: 12,580
Doctor says "mass" or "tumor:" What's the difference, if any?

I am several people removed from the source so this information might not be reliable, but. . . .

I have a friend (seriously!) who has a friend who related this to her. Friend’s friend has a relative who has Stage IV liver cancer. Grim prognosis, but that’s not what the question is about.

Friend’s friend (probably not a high-school grad, and I suspect science, physiology, and medicine are not strong suits) mentioned that earlier on the doctors thought it was a “mass,” but it turned out to be a “tumor.” Or maybe it was the other way around.

Obviously I was not present to hear what the doctor said. The chain is doctor>friend’s friend>friend>me, so here’s the question:

I know that some doctors are better than others about using medical jargon when talking to patients, so I’m just curious from a doctor’s standpoint, what is a “mass” vs. a “tumor?” Or, more specifically, what "masses" would not be considered tumors?

(I’m not asking about what is cancerous vs. non-cancerous. I’m pretty clear on that.)
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 04-22-2008, 02:59 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Slithering on the hull
Posts: 22,327
They're both vague descriptions that are not real helpful.

A tumor could be benign or malignant, but is generally some sort of overgrowth of one's own cells.

A mass could be a tumor, but it could be any other localized collection of space-occupying material that's not supposed to be there. An abscess, a cyst, a granuloma, etc.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 04-22-2008, 06:05 PM
MsRobyn MsRobyn is offline
Straight Dope Science Advisory Board
 
Join Date: Mar 2000
Location: Between the Moon and NYC
Posts: 12,370
This isn't going to be very helpful, either, but I learned that a lump is a mass until it's a tumor. That is, if you can feel it, it's a mass. Once the mass has been imaged or biopsied, it becomes a tumor (which is solid) or a cyst, or what have you. Then you get the results back and you find out exactly what it is (i.e. cancer, benign, who knows, whatever).

Robin
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 04-22-2008, 06:27 PM
Yllaria Yllaria is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: Stockton
Posts: 8,069
Back in the day, my grandfather had metal in his lungs from breathing welding fumes. I'm guessing that the metal wouldn't be considered a mass because it would show up as a non-tissue artifact on an x-ray. Is that right?

Also, an abcess can be lanced and drained. Can a cyst be drained? A granuloma? Are they non-tumors because they're not an overgrowth of the sort of tissue that's supposed to be there? Because they're something that should have passed through and moved on, but that built up instead?

Could pneumonia be a mass?
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:14 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright © 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.