What Is A Liver Tumor
Like the rest of the organs, the liver is also made up of cells. Since one of the main functions the liver is to expel toxins from the body, sometimes, there is a chance of the toxins getting accumulated in the cells. The cells may begin to multiply at an abnormal pace in an uncontrolled manner, leading to the formation of cysts on the liver. These liver cysts are also known as liver tumors.
Liver tumors can be either benign or malignant in nature. Benign tumors usually do not pose a threat to the health and are often detected accidentally. However, on the other hand, malignant tumors can be risky and may lead to liver cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma is a primary type of liver cancer, which can metastasize to other organs in the body and become secondary, which is more fatal. Other causes of secondary or metastatic liver cancer are advanced stages of other cancers like colon cancer, breast cancer and kidney cancer, etc.
What Are The Symptoms
The symptoms you experience depend on the type of liver lesion.
Benign lesions typically do not cause symptoms, especially when they are small. On rare occasions, they can become large enough to press on nearby organs. When this happens, you may experience abdominal pain.
Liver cancer does not cause symptoms in its early stages. As the lesion grows, you may experience:
- Abdominal pain.
- Lump you can feel toward the top right side of your stomach.
- Yellowing of the skin or whites of your eyes from jaundice.
Birth Control Has Been Linked To The Development Of Some Liver Lesions
While the claim is somewhat controversial regular use of contraceptive pills, estrogen therapy medications, and anabolic steroids are considered risk factors. Most doctors advise patients diagnosed with these liver mass types to discontinue use of such medications.
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Mri With Gadolinium Is The Most Powerful Tool For Examining A Liver Mass
Different types of liver lesions often share similar characteristics with one another. This makes the diagnostic process especially challenging. Focal nodular hyperplasia lesions, for instance, share imaging features with the fibrolamellar variant of hepatoma. They also display similar characteristics found in hepatic adenomas.
One study found that in 70% of cases, MRI with gadolinium was able to differentiate between focal nodular hyperplasia and hepatic adenomas.
MRI with dynamic gadolinium imaging is the most powerful tool to evaluate the liver, but it also has the greatest requirement for skilled interpretation of the studies. A radiologist needs a lot of training and experience in order to accurately and fully interpret all the findings in an MRI. says Dr Richard Semelka. Its imperative a subspecialist handles these types of cases.
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The DocPanel platform enables people all over the world to get an expert second opinion in as little as 24 – 72 hours.
An easy 3-step process – instantly upload your scans, select an expert subspecialty radiologist , and submit your request. Upon uploading your scans, youll also have the opportunity to ask any questions you might have about your case.Not sure what a subspecialist is? Learn more with our in-depth article on the importance of getting a second opinion from a subspecialty radiologist.
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The Liver Is One Of The Bodys Most Important Organs
It breaks down food, processes nutrients from the digestive system, and helps rid the blood of harmful substances.
Sometimes, abnormal cells or tissues – referred to as a liver mass or liver lesion – develop on the liver. They can either be benign or malignant . But accurately diagnosing a liver mass can be complicated.
Here are 7 things you should know about identifying a liver mass to help ensure an accurate diagnosis.
DocPanel is committed to making sure every patient receives excellent care. If you would like an expert second opinion on a liver mass diagnosis from one of our subspecialty radiologists, you can learn more here.
How Are Liver Lesions Diagnosed
There is no single test that can diagnose all liver lesions. Your doctor may order a combination of tests to diagnose your liver lesions.
The most important tests used are:
- Abdominal imaging such as ultrasound, CT scan and MRI.
- Tumor markers. These are blood tests that can diagnose certain types of liver lesions.
- Biopsy. This a procedure that allows the provider to obtain a tiny piece of the liver or liver lesion to examine under the microscope.
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How Is A Benign Liver Tumor Diagnosed
Most benign liver tumors do not cause symptoms and are found incidentally on abdominal imaging studies such as an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI. It is important that benign tumors are not misdiagnosed. Your doctor may choose to follow the tumor with imaging studies to ensure that they have been diagnosed correctly. A biopsy may be required if the CT or MRI is unclear regarding the nature of the liver tumor.
Determining The Type Of A Liver Mass Requires An Expert Subspecialty Radiologist
There are many types of liver lesions. Some tumors originate in the liver, while others develop when cancer from another part of the body spreads to the liver – known as liver metastases, or secondary liver cancer.
Even with advanced imaging, it can be very difficult to differentiate one type of liver mass from another. The risk of mistaking a benign liver mass for a malignant tumor is extremely high and can drastically impact patient outcome.
In order to ensure an accurate diagnosis, its important to seek out a radiologist who specializes in abdominal imaging. In addition, a second opinion from a subspecialist can help confirm a diagnosis, offer peace of mind that a liver mass is benign, or potentially save a life by catching and preventing a misdiagnosis.
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Articles On What Are Liver Lesions
Liver lesions are groups of abnormal cells in your liver. Your doctor may call them a mass or a tumor.
Noncancerous, or benign, liver lesions are common. They donât spread to other areas of your body and donât usually cause any health issues. But some liver lesions form as a result of cancer.
Treatment For Metastatic Liver Cancer
Specific treatment for metastatic liver cancer will be determined by your doctor based on:
- Your age, overall health, and medical history
- Extent of the disease
- Your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
- Expectations for the course of the disease
- Your opinion or preference
Treatment may include:
- Surgery. In some cases, surgery may be used to remove cancerous tissue from the liver. However, the tumor must be small and confined.
- Radiation therapy. Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill or shrink cancer cells.
- Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy uses anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells.
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Types Of Benign Liver Tumors
Hemangiomas are the most common type of benign liver tumor. They start in blood vessels. Because most of these tumors do not cause symptoms, they do not need treatment. But some may bleed and need to be removed by surgery.
Hepatic adenomas are benign tumors that start from the main type of liver cells. Most do not cause symptoms and do not need treatment. But if they cause stomach pain, a mass in the belly, or blood loss, they may need to be removed.
Focal Nodular Hyperplasia
Focal nodular hyperplasia, or FNH, is a tumor-like growth of several cell types. Although FNH tumors are benign, it can sometimes be hard to tell them apart from true liver cancers. If there are symptoms, the tumor can be removed.
Since 1980 The Incidence Of Liver Cancer Has Nearly Tripled In The Us
In 2019, an estimated 42,030 adults are expected to be diagnosed with primary liver cancer. While obesity and chronic alcohol consumption have both been linked to the rise in incidence, the advancements in radiographic imaging have also contributed to an overall increase in detection. The occurrence of fatty liver disease is also on the rise, putting more people at risk of developing cirrhosis – scarring of the liver that often leads to hepatocellular carcinoma.
But liver cancer is not only becoming more prevalent in the US. According to a study published in JAMA Oncology, the incidence of liver cancer increased by 75 percent worldwide between 1990 and 2015.
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Most Liver Lesions Are Detected During An Imaging Test For An Unrelated Issue
The majority of patients living with a benign liver mass do not experience any symptoms. Even malignant liver lesions are often asymptomatic. As a result, theyre are often detected during imaging tests for an unrelated condition.
Unfortunately, this makes it difficult to catch a cancerous liver mass at an early stage. With no routine screening in place to monitor the liver, its advised high-risk patients get a liver scan annually, or as advised by a doctor.
How Liver Tumours Are Diagnosed
A variety of tests and investigations may be needed to diagnose a liver tumour.
An ultrasound scan and X-rays will be taken, which can show if there is a tumour in the liver. Further tests, including CT scans or MRI scans, will be done to find out the extent of the disease, both inside and outside the liver. Blood tests will also be carried out.
Most hepatoblastomas and hepatocellular carcinomas produce a protein that is released into the bloodstream. This protein is known as alpha-fetoprotein . Its possible to measure levels of AFP in the blood, which can be a useful indicator of whether the liver tumour is responding to treatment or whether it may have come back after treatment. AFP is also known as a tumour marker.
Any tests and investigations that your child needs will be explained to you.
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Symptoms Of Liver Tumor
Unfortunately, individuals suffering from liver lesions or liver cancer do not exhibit any symptoms in the initial stages of the disorder. The symptoms are evident only after the cancer has progressed and metastasized to other parts of the body. Given here are some of the signs, which can help diagnose this health disorder.
- Pain in the abdominal region, on the right side, below the breast bone . It is actually liver pain which may have radiated to the abdominal region.
- A feeling of fullness or bloating sensation due to an enlarged liver.
- Swollen abdomen, which may feel tender when touched.
- Discoloration or yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes due to jaundice.
- A bitter taste in the mouth due to overproduction of bile can be observed.
- Headache, high grade fever, and lethargy are also common complaints of people who have tumors in the liver.
- Unexplained weight loss can also be observed in such cases, due to reduced intake and amount of food.
- Loss of appetite, nausea induced vomiting, chalky colored feces and general body weakness are some other signs of the presence of cysts or lesions on the liver.
What Are Symptoms Of Benign Liver Tumors
Most benign liver tumors do not have symptoms. Symptoms usually do not develop until the mass is so big that it pushes on other organs. When this happens, it can cause upper abdominal pain, particularly on the right side. If the tumor pushes on the stomach it can cause a sense of fullness after eating which limits the amount of food you can eat. If this goes on long enough, you may even experience unintentional weight loss. A rare complication from large adenomas is bleeding in the liver. This usually causes immediate intense right upper abdominal pain. This can be life threatening and patients with suspected rupture should be evaluated by a physician immediately.
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How Is Liver Hepatoma Diagnosed
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for a liver hepatoma may include the following:
Liver function tests. A series of special blood tests that can determine if the liver is functioning properly.
Abdominal ultrasound . A diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs of the abdomen, such as the liver, spleen, and kidneys and to assess blood flow through various vessels.
Computed tomography scan . A diagnostic imaging procedure using a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.
Hepatic angiography. X-rays taken after a substance in injected into the hepatic arteries.
Liver biopsy. A procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed from the body for examination under a microscope.
Signs And Symptoms Of Liver Cancer
Having one or more of the symptoms below does not mean you have liver cancer. In fact, many of these symptoms are more likely to be caused by other conditions. Still, if you have any of these symptoms, its important to have them checked by a doctor so that the cause can be found and treated, if needed. Signs and symptoms of liver cancer often do not show up until the later stages of the disease, but sometimes they may show up sooner. If you go to your doctor when you first notice symptoms, your cancer might be diagnosed earlier, when treatment is most likely to be helpful. Some of the most common symptoms of liver cancer are:
- Feeling very full after a small meal
- Nausea or vomiting
- An enlarged liver, felt as fullness under the ribs on the right side
- An enlarged spleen, felt as fullness under the ribs on the left side
- Pain in the abdomen or near the right shoulder blade
- Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
Other symptoms can include fever, enlarged veins on the belly that can be seen through the skin, and abnormal bruising or bleeding.
People who have chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis might feel worse than usual or might just have changes in lab test results, such as liver function tests or alpha-fetoprotein levels.
Some liver tumors make hormones that act on organs other than the liver. These hormones may cause:
Last Revised: April 1, 2019
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What Is The Outlook For People With Liver Cancer
It varies based on the type of cancer and how long the cancer has been there.
- Hepatocellular carcinoma: People with hepatocellular carcinoma have an excellent outlook when the cancer is found and treated early. These cancers often can be cured.
- Metastatic cancer : This condition is more difficult to treat, and there are fewer options. Treatment will not cure the cancer, but can slow its growth and improve symptoms.
Search For A Clinical Trial
Clinical trials are research studies that test how well new medical approaches work in people. Before an experimental treatment can be tested on human subjects in a clinical trial, it must have shown benefit in laboratory testing or animal research studies. The most promising treatments are then moved into clinical trials, with the goal of identifying new ways to safely and effectively prevent, screen for, diagnose, or treat a disease.
Speak with your doctor about the ongoing progress and results of these trials to get the most up-to-date information on new treatments. Participating in a clinical trial is a great way to contribute to curing, preventing and treating liver disease and its complications.
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Types Of Liver Cancer
There are two major types of primary liver cancer :
- Hepatocellular carcinoma :This is the most common type of liver cancer. HCC tumors are three times more common in men than women, and they are usually preceded by liver cirrhosis.
- Fibrolamellar carcinoma: This is a subtype of HCC, where fibrous bands separate the cells of the tumor. Fibrolamellar carcinoma is seen more in women than men and risk factors are not known.
- Cholangiocarcinoma:This is the cancer of the bile duct. With cholangiocarcinoma, malignant liver lesions develop in the branches of the bile duct. These tumors can appear in the bile duct regions that are in the liver, or further down, in parts of the bile duct near the small intestine.
Rare types of liver cancer include liver angiosarcoma and hepatoblastoma.
Cancerous tumors that originate in other parts of the body can spread to the liver. And cancerous tumors that start in the liver can also spread to other parts of the body.
Types Of Benign Liver Lesions
There are different types of benign liver lesions.
Hepatic hemangioma is the most common type of liver lesion, consisting of clusters of small blood vessels. Around 20% of the general population have hemangiomas. They don’t typically cause symptoms, so they can be left untreated.
But in rare cases, they can cause abdominal pain, nausea, and early satiety . Women are more likely to have hemangiomas than men.
Focal Nodular Hyperplasia
This is the second most common type of liver lesion, and it is seen more often in women than men. In 80% of cases, FNH is found in women between the ages of 20 to 50. An FNH lesion can grow bigger or smaller, but regardless of changes to its size, it does not become cancerous.
Benign Hepatic Cyst
This type of lesion contains a clear, bile-like liquid and does not usually cause any symptoms. In rare cases, if the cyst is large, it may cause abdominal pain or nausea, vomiting, and early satiety. Anywhere from 2.5% to 18% of the general population could have benign cysts in their liver.
These are uncommon liver lesions that develop predominantly in young women. It can be caused by long-term oral contraception use or synthetic testosterone use. Hepatic adenomas can sometimes cause abdominal discomfort.
If you have hepatic adenomas, your healthcare provider will likely recommend that you avoid taking oral contraceptives. Surgery to remove them will probably also be recommended.
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