The liver is one of the body’s largest and most vital organs. It is responsible for most of the protein produced in the body, which is transported to the liver from the pancreas by way of the portal vein.
These tumors primarily form in the liver, but some types metastasize (spread) from other bodily organs. However, liver tumors rarely spread to other parts of the body.
Liver tumors are usually discovered through medical imaging during routine check-ups for other conditions. Abnormal blood tests can also be a sign of a liver tumor. There are several different types of liver tumors:
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
- Mesenchymal tissue
- Hepatoblastoma: a rare malignant tumor primarily diagnosed in children
- Cholangiocarcinoma: these tumors are found in the small tubes (bile ducts) that carry bile to the small intestine
- Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma: rare tumors primarily found in the blood vessels. They grow quickly; often by the time they are identified they have spread too much to be removed
- Lymphoma of the liver
Risk Factors and Causes
Depending on the type, there are many risk factors that can contribute to the development of a liver tumor. Chronic hepatitis-B, an infection contracted from contaminated blood products, is a leading cause.
Cirrhosis of the liver, performance enhancing drugs (steroids), estrogen-producing female hormones, and family history have also been connected to the diagnosis of different kinds of liver tumors.
Signs & Symptoms
Although each type of tumor has its own unique signs and symptoms, most include:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
Treatment is determined by the stage of the tumor and the patient’s overall health. For some patients, a complete liver transplant is the only option for recovery. In some of the less severe cases, chemotherapy, radiation, and isolated surgical procedures that remove portions of the tumor are effective options.
Just like the patient’s treatment plan, prognosis depends on the stage of the tumor and its response to the course of treatment. Liver tumors were once among the most terminal; however, advances in both traditional and experimental therapies have increased a patient’s life expectancy considerably.
When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider
Liver tumors should be taken very seriously. If you notice any of the signs or symptoms mentioned above, particularly jaundice or severe abdominal pain, contact your healthcare professional immediately. Early detection and treatment greatly improve a patient’s overall prognosis.