A hepatic tumor is an abnormal growth of cells in or on the liver. Tumors in or on the liver may be benign or cancerous. When they are identified, laboratory analysis is usually recommended to learn more about the nature of the tumor and develop an appropriate treatment plan for the patient. Treatments for a hepatic tumor can include surgery to remove the growth, along with chemotherapy and radiation to target and kill tumor cells in the body with the goal of preventing or arresting metastatic cancers.
Benign hepatic tumors include hepatic adenomas, focal nodular hyperplasias, and hemangiomas. Malignancies of the liver are commonly metastatic cancers with origins elsewhere in the body, but people can also develop cholangiocarcinomas and hepatoblastomas, along with other cancers arising in liver cells. Prognosis for a patient with a hepatic tumor varies depending on the size, type, and precise location of the tumor. The sooner the growth is caught, the more likely the patient will be to survive treatment.
Signs of a hepatic tumor can include abdominal pain, jaundice, and hepatomegaly, an enlargement of the liver that may be palpable. Medical imaging studies can be used to review the liver and identify areas of abnormal growth. Biopsies can be taken surgically or through needle aspiration to collect cells for examination under a microscope. A pathologist can examine the cells to determine their origins and nature.
If surgery is recommended for a hepatic tumor, the patient will be put under general anesthesia while the surgeon resects the tumor. Typically, an attempt is made to remove clean margins to ensure that the entire growth is successfully taken out. After the surgery, additional treatment options can be discussed if there are concerns about malignancy. In the case of metastatic cancers, treatments may be more supportive than curative in nature if the cancer is well distributed in the patient's body.
Causes of hepatic tumors are not well understood. Like other cancers, they develop when cell division runs amok. One potential cause is inflammation and irritation in the liver, as this tends to increase turnover among liver cells and can allow cancerous cells to flourish. People with a history of liver disease can be at increased risk of developing tumors on their livers, as can alcoholics and people who have stressed their livers with other substances. Healthy individuals may also develop tumors, especially since many cancers spread easily and quickly to the liver.