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What does it mean if you have a precancerous condition?

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A precancerous condition is defined as a medical condition that is not yet cancerous, but it may become a cancer if left untreated, according to MedicineNet. Another word for precancerous is premalignant.

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The term precancerous was first used by Romanian physician Victor Babe? in 1875, according to Wikipedia. Sometimes, it is used to describe carcinoma in situ, which are noninvasive cancers that have not progressed to a more aggressive stage. Precancerous lesions appear abnormal under microscopic examination and may be found in the mouth, cervix and stomach, among other places.

One example of a precancerous condition is actinic keratosis, the most common skin lesion that leads to skin cancer. Actinic keratosis can be treated in a number of ways to stop it from becoming a squamos cell carcinoma, explains Remedy Health Media. Treatement options include burning the growth with electrical cautery, surgical excision, cryotherapy, laser therapy and electrodesiccation.

Atypical hyperplasia is another example of a precancerous condition. This affects cells in the breast, explains the Mayo Clinic. If the abnormal cells keep dividing over the course of a patient's lifetime, it's possible for atypical hyperplasia to transition into breast cancer. As with any precancerous condition, intensive screening is critical to identify atypical hyperplasia before it becomes malignant.

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