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NCCN Guidelines for Patients


Adolescents and Young Adults with Cancer, Version 1.2017

Normal cells grow and divide and repeat the process

over and over again. The normal cells are supposed

to die when they become old or damaged. If they

don’t die and new cells start to form, the growth

can get out of control. Then an abnormal growth

forms that is called a tumor. Solid tumors can grow

anywhere in the body. Abnormal cells can grow out

of control in places like the bone marrow and blood.

These cells can interrupt how the blood cells form

but may not form a tumor. A solid tumor can form

anywhere in the body. Tumors can be benign or


See Figure 2.

What is the difference between benign and malignant


Benign tumors

are not cancer.


The cells are similar to normal cells.


They do not spread to nearby tissues.


They may be found in one area but can grow

large in size.

Common forms of benign tumors include cysts (lumps

filled with fluid), lipomas (lumps of fatty cells), and

fibromas (lumps of fibrous or connective tissue cells).

Some benign tumors are considered pre-cancerous,

meaning that they may progress to cancer.

Fortunately, once removed, most benign tumors do

not come back.

Malignant tumors

are cancer.


The cells tend to be very different from normal



They can vary in size and be in more than one

area in the body.


They can invade nearby organs and spread

(metastasize) to other parts of the body.


But I'm too young to have cancer!

What is cancer?

Figure 1. DNA

DNA is found in our cells and when damaged can

cause cancer.

Figure 2.

Normal versus cancer cell growth

Cancer cells make new cells that aren't needed and

don't die quickly when old or damaged.

Illustration Copyright © 2016 Nucleus Medical Media, All rights reserved.