Benign Tumors and Lesions

Tumors are abnormal growths. A benign tumor is one that is not cancerous. In general, benign tumors are not dangerous unless they press on some structure – such as a blood vessel or nerve – in a way that causes a problem. In addition, some benign tumors can develop into cancerous ones. Most cysts are also benign, but are usually removed as they can grow larger and cause symptoms or become infected.  At Mount Sinai, we have extensive experience in determining which tumors need immediate treatment and which we can watch carefully for any changes. Our pediatric surgeons are expert at diagnosis, as well as treatment.

About Benign Tumors and Cysts

There are many types of benign tumors and cysts.  In fact, they are as varied as the parts of the body in which they develop. Some of the  common types of benign tumors and cysts that we treat are:

  • Lipomas grow from fat cells and most often appear in the neck, shoulders, back, or arms.
  • Lipoblastomas develop in fatty areas and are most common among children below age three.
  • Lymphatic malformations are rare fluid-filled masses caused by the abnormal development of the lymphatic system. They are usually visible at birth or within the first two years of life.
  • Nevi (moles) are growths on the skin, which can range in color from pink to brown to black.
  • Neuromas grow from nerves anywhere in the body.
  • Ovarian cysts and teratomas are tumors that develop  in the ovary.
  • Pilomatrixomas are common cysts that start in a hair follicle and form a cyst under the skin.
  • Sacrococcygeal teratomas are rare tumors that appear on the tailbones of newborns.
  • Sebaceous cysts are benign cysts that grow under the skin.
  • Thyroglossal duct cysts are benign cysts that grow under the skin of the upper neck.
  • Vascular malformations are malformations in the veins that are present at birth.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose benign tumors and cysts, we typically start by performing a physical exam and taking your child’s medical history. We might also use imaging tests such as computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasounds, or X-rays. Finally, we may do a biopsy, which involves taking a tiny bit of the tumor itself to test in a lab.

While many benign tumors do not need treatment, some do, especially if they are causing symptoms. Usually if a benign tumor requires treatment, we remove it surgically. Whenever possible, we use minimally invasive techniques, which require small incisions and have minimal recovery time.