The terms cyst and tumor are commonly used to stand for the same thing, and for good reason. Both of these terms have more similarities as compared to differences, and that is the reason why most people become confused when it comes to differentiating between a cyst and a tumor. Besides confusion, they also become gratuitously worried about the implications of having either one. However, there are several differences between these two terms. By properly understanding the two terms, it can become easier to differentiate between them.
A cyst is a fluid-filled sac that can occur at any place on the body, on the skin surface or inside a soft tissue. A tumor, on the other hand, is a solid mass of tissues that looks like a lump on the body. It can also develop anywhere on or inside the body. Both cysts and tumors that develop inside the body cannot be seen or felt unaided; rather, the patient needs to have an ultrasound done of that part of the body, to discover the cyst or tumor.
There are several factors that can cause cysts, including hormonal imbalances, an infection in the body, the clogging of certain glands etc. It can also develop where there is an obstruction to the flow of fluids inside the body. When on the surface of the skin, a cyst can be felt as a lump, just like a tumor. On the other hand, there are no specific reasons behind the formation of tumors; doctors and medical researchers usually link it with a person’s genetic build up.
A cyst feels soft to the touch, while a tumor is a bit harder to touch, the reason being that the former is filled with fluid, air, or semi-solids, while the latter is a mass of tissues. A tumor may or may not be malignant (cancerous), but the chances of a cyst being malignant are very low.
A non-malignant tumor rarely poses a threat to the person who has it, but a cyst can be dangerous if left untreated. For this reason, the latter should never be left unattended and it is better to have it removed at the earliest.
Related: Difference Between Tumour and Cancer