Difference Between a Cyst and a Tumor

Difference Between a Cyst and a Tumor

Cysts and Tumors may be quite similar, but some significant differences separate them. While cysts and tumors are common lump types, it can be pretty hard to differentiate between them as they can often be found in similar areas. So, it is identical to have ovarian tumors and ovarian cysts. Despite their similarities, there are apparent differences between the two.

While a cyst is a small sad filled with fluid, air, or other materials, a tumor is a hard cyst and refers to any unusual place that has extra tissues, and both of them can appear in the bones, organs, tissues, and skin.

When this happens, the first question that crosses people's minds is how to tell if the lump is cancerous? Although some cancers can cause cysts, cysts are often benign. Tumors, on the other hand, can either be malignant or benign. This is one difference between a cyst and a tumor. While benign tumors stay in one area, tumors grow and create a new one in other parts of your body.

Difference Between a Cyst and a Tumor
Difference Between a Cyst and a Tumor

How to Identify Cysts and Tumors?

By merely looking at them, it's hard to tell the differences between a cyst and a tumor, but by clearly looking at close signs, you might be able to differentiate between the two. However, it is strongly advised to let a doctor have a closer look at it to determine which of the two it is.

Here are a few things to tell the difference between a cyst and a tumor;

· Cysts are not fast-growing, tumors are fast-growing.

· Tumors appear red and swollen, while cysts aren't.

· Cysts have a blackhead at the center, tumors are rounded with no openings.

· Tumors move all around under the skin, while cysts are hardly mobile.

· Cysts are tender, while tumors are hard.

· Cysts often discharge green, yellow, or white pus.

Tumors grow large to the extent that they strain other surrounding tissues. Depending on where the lump is situated, other symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, joint movements, bladder control, and eating disorders may also set in. Once you notice any lump with unusual symptoms, seek an appointment with your doctor.

Causes of Cysts

There are various causes of the different types of cysts. While some cysts form directly under the skin surface due to the multiplication of dead skin cells, others like the polycystic ovary syndrome are formed by an underlying medical condition.

Other causes of cysts include the following:

· Ovulation,

· Connective joint tissue degeneration,

· Clogged duct within the hair follicles, and

· Injury or irritation to hair follicles.

Causes of Tumors

Tumors are a result of abnormal growth of cells. The cells in the body usually grow and divide to form new cells where they're needed in the body. Whenever old cells die, they are to be replaced with new ones. However, tumors come in when the process is not completed. When old and damaged cells survive instead of dying out, new cells begin to form before they are needed, and the division of the new cells cause the growth of tumors.

How to Tell a Cyst from a Tumor
How to Tell a Cyst from a Tumor

While some tumors are benign and don't spread from tissue to tissue, others that are malignant are cancerous and spread quickly to other nearby tissues. As the cancerous tumors grow, the cancer cells break off and travel around the body to form new tumors.

How to Diagnose Cysts and Tumors

Apart from physical exams, diagnostic imaging helps the doctors figure out what exactly is inside the lump. Diagnostic imaging includes mammograms, MRI scans, CT scans, and ultrasounds.

Cysts that appear smooth to the diagnostic images and naked eye are often benign, but if the lump seems to have solid components, then they can be either malignant or benign. The best way to diagnose whether a tumor or cyst is cancerous is to go for a biopsy. A biopsy will also ensure the removal of some or all of the lump.

Having looked at the tissue under a microscope, your doctors would be able to tell you if it is filled with cancerous cells. If it's filled with fluid, a fine needle aspiration could be used to pull out a sample of the fluid for testing. Most aspirations and biopsies can be done in outpatient centers, depending on the lump location.


Tumors and cysts are treated according to their cause, their location, and whether they are cancerous or not. Although most cysts don't require treatments, a painful cyst could be obliterated or drained of its fluid. If you decide to drain it, there's always a slight chance that it may regrow, so obliterating it is the best option. Some doctors may prescribe medication to help with the pain but do not take these if you have previously dealt with a drug addiction. If you ask your doctor for other methods to help with pain this may help you prevent relapse.

Tumors that are benign don't need treatments, but if it's threatening an area or causing other issues, then it may need surgery to get it removed. Cancerous tumors require chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or surgical removal. In rare cases, you may need to combine the treatments for effectiveness.

How to Tell if Lump is Cancerous
How to Tell if Lump is Cancerous

Signs to Look Out For

Book an appointment with your doctor whenever you notice these signs;

· Oozing or bleeding,

· Change in color,

· Itching,

· Rupture in the lump,

· Swelling or redness.

The difference between a cyst and a tumor is quite hard to tell, even for doctors. While there are a few signs to help one identify whether a lump is a cyst or tumor, it's best to schedule an appointment with your doctor to take samples of it to determine if it's a tumor, cyst, or any other sickness, as well as to recommend the best treatment to undergo. This would be how to tell if a lump is cancerous.

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