A tumor that is discovered in the liver may be malignant or benign. Malignant or cancerous tumors in the liver can develop in the liver itself or they can spread to the liver if the cancer started in a different area of the body. Cirrhosis of the liver, which is permanent scarring of the liver, is one of the major causes of cancerous liver tumors.
This type of damage to the liver is often the result of heavy alcohol consumption, hepatitis C and anabolic steroid use. Liver tumors that are benign, or noncancerous, are quite common and some are linked to oral contraceptive use.
There are usually no symptoms of liver cancer until the disease progresses into the later stages.
Symptoms which indicate a cancerous tumor in the liver include nausea, losing weight and pain in the upper right portion of the stomach. Jaundice often occurs and this creates a yellow tint in the whites of the eyes and on the skin. Individuals who have a benign liver tumor normally do not have any symptoms so these tumors are only discovered when a person has an ultrasound test for other reasons.
The most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma which is identified in the liver cells. Chronic infections from hepatitis viruses can cause liver tumors and sometimes, mutations in the liver cells change the chemical processes, causing the cells to grow into tumor masses – which are not always cancerous.
A hereditary disease associated with an excessive production of iron in the liver called hemochromatosis and inherited metabolic disorders can lead to liver tumors. Those who live excessive lifestyles develop liver tumors; alcohol or obesity can lead to fatty liver disease. Environmental chemicals and plant substances such as mold can contaminate food, increasing the risk of liver tumors.
Health issues or rare diseases that interfere with the liver’s function to cleanse the body of toxins raise the chances of the liver being infected and developing tumors. These forms of liver tumors are common and referred to as metastatic cancer, since they did not originate in the liver.
The treatment options for cancerous liver tumors include chemotherapy, radiation and targeted therapy. A surgical procedure, called a liver resection, may be performed to remove the cancerous portion of the liver.
Other types of surgeries that are often recommended for this type of cancer include embolization or chemoembolization. Radiofrequency ablation is also a type of liver tumor treatment that shrinks the tumor or delays its growth. This type of procedure is often recommended for patients who are unable to have liver tumor surgery. Treatment options for benign liver tumors are to stop taking oral contraceptives and to have the tumor surgically removed if it is painful.
There are ways to prevent liver tumors. You can start by lowering your risk – look to control your diet, weight, daily exercise and limit the consumption of alcohol and smoking.
Although it may be difficult, avoiding life-threatening infections is the best method of tumor prevention; this includes sharing drug needles and practicing safe sex, since most infections spread from person to person. If you are prone to infections or illnesses, your doctor may help with regular vaccinations to boost your immune system as a precaution to liver tumors.
Any time genetics are a factor, you need to learn more about your family’s history and your risks. Inherited liver conditions need to be monitored and treated to inhibit damage to the liver. Regular visits with your doctor can identify early problems and prevent more serious health issues.