What Is Liver Tumor?
Liver tumors are abnormal growths or cysts localized in the liver. These neoplasms can either be benign or malignant in nature but this may depend on several circumstances. There are certain tumors which may already be present even at birth and most liver tumors at birth are considered to be benign in origin. One of the most common benign forms of liver tumors is mesenchymal hemartoma. Mesenchymal hemartomas are commonly seen among developing fetuses. These are considered to be the abnormal accumulation of tissues in the liver. However, this does not take place in the liver of a healthy adult. Benign tumors like mesenchymal hemartoma may only require removal through surgery. There’s no need for a follow-up chemotherapy. The remaining types of tumor belong to the malignant group.
Before we further discuss on the causes, symptoms, treatment and prognosis of liver tumor, let us first acquaint ourselves with the remaining types of tumor. The remaining types of liver tumor belong to the malignant group. Malignant tumors can either be classified as primary or secondary tumors. Primary liver tumor originates from the liver itself and secondary ones are just metastases. The common types of malignant liver tumor include the following:
- Hepatoblastoma– This is just one of the malignant tumor types. Hepatoblastoma commonly affects infants and younger children. This type of liver tumor is considered to be highly cancerous and has the tendency to spread to nearby organs such as the abdomen and the entire abdominal cavity and the lungs. It is, however, rare to encounter liver tumor metastasis to the bone.
- Hepatocellular carcinoma– This is considered to be the most common type of primary tumor. Hepatocellular carcinoma may be found both in children and in adults. This is a mulish type of liver tumor and is often resistant to chemotherapy. Just like hepatoblastoma, hepatocellular carcinoma may also metastasize to surrounding organs.
Nearly five percent of the population worldwide develop liver tumor and five percent of these develop symptoms. Furthermore, here are some of the things that you should learn about liver tumor.
Liver Tumor Symptoms
The clinical manifestations of liver tumor greatly vary among individuals. Symptoms would depend on the size of the tumor and the other organs involved, aside from the liver. These would only start to manifest once the tumor has grown big enough causing obstruction in the blood flow to surrounding tissues and organs. Some of the symptoms that may be present in liver tumor are:
- Presence of palpable mass on the upper right side of the abdomen which may be accompanied by abdominal discomfort and fullness
- Pain may also be felt on the upper right portion of the abdomen just under the rib cage. The pain has the tendency to radiate to the shoulder and the back.
- Loss of appetite
- Itchy skin
- Anemia (primarily due to the decreasing red blood cell count
- Jaundice – This is the medical term for the yellowish discoloration of the skin and as well as of the sclera which is primarily due to possible obstruction of the bile flow.
Liver Tumor Causes
Nearly every case of liver tumor has an unknown cause. Nevertheless, there are several circumstances that may be associated with the development of liver tumor. Some of them are:
- Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome
- Familial adenomatous polyposis
- Previous hepatitis infection
- Fanconi’s anemia
The presence of other genetic conditions also increase ones risk of developing liver tumor and these include:
- Biliary atresia
- Giant Cell Hepatitis of Infancy
- Cholestatic cirrhosis
Malignant tumors are believed to have been primarily due to the mutation of the tumor suppressor genes. This leads to cellular aberration and uncontrolled growth.
Liver Tumor Diagnosis
A thorough physical examination must be conducted to detect the presence of liver tumor. However, so as to confirm this condition, further tests have to be conducted; including:
- Abdominal ultrasonography – This is considered to be the initial approach of diagnosing the presence of liver tumor.
- CT scan and MRI – These imaging studies are usually done following an abdominal ultrasonography. This is so as to clearly view and determine the exact characteristics of the liver tumor.
- PET scan – A positron emission test (PET) scan may also be helpful in determining the extent of metastasis in nearby organs.
- CBC – Checking the number of certain blood components can also pinpoint a possible presence of tumor in the liver.
- Alpha-Fetoprotein test – This may as well be utilized in the diagnosis of liver tumor.
- Biopsy – Nonetheless, if you want a definitive test for liver tumor, biopsy is always preferred. A liver biopsy is considered to be an invasive and highly critical condition. During the procedure, the surgeon obtains a sample tissue from the liver and this will then be analyzed using the microscope. This procedure must be carefully done as the liver is an extremely vascular organ. Undue puncture to the organ may result to massive bleeding.
Liver Tumor Treatment
Early detection is immensely important in the treatment course of liver tumor. There can be several treatment modalities for liver tumor. The treatment would usually depend on the type of tumor, as to whether it is benign or malignant, its size and extensibility. Here are the possible treatments for liver tumor:
Liver tumors, either benign or malignant, have to be removed through surgery. The good thing about operating on the liver is that even when the affected portion of the liver has been removed, this still has the chance to regenerate. The liver is the only organ in the body which has the capacity to re-grow on its own.
Another mode of treating liver tumor is through the use of radiation, either from gamma rays or x-rays. This treatment is highly effective in killing and eradicating cancer cells. However, the problem with this is that this may kill the healthy cells. That is why the use of radiation therapy as part of the treatment regimen for liver tumor is still controversial.
This is considered to be one of the ways to treat certain types of cancer, including malignant liver tumors. Chemotherapeutic agents are also as effective as other modes of treatment. But then again, this also damages the normal cells of the body. Benign liver tumors do not call for chemotherapy though.
When the presence of liver tumor causes the liver to totally lose its function, a liver transplant may likely be required. The kin of the affected individual are the perfect liver donor. However, there are also some cases that other people may match as a liver donor.
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