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A tumor or cancer is classified as malignant (as opposed to benign), when it exhibits any one or more of three characteristics:

  • Anaplasia - where cells stop being differentiated into functional cells and to start merely replicating without limit.
  • Invasiveness - where the cells invade other tissues and organs, extending their boundaries without limit
  • Metastasis - where cells from the tumor or cancer can travel through the bloodstream or other systems to start growing new tumors.

A malignant tumor or cancer will always result in the death of the patient without treatment, and may be terminal even with aggressive treatment.

Malignancy at Wikipedia