A liver tumor is an area of uncontrolled cell growth in or on the liver. Like tumors elsewhere in the body, liver tumors arise when something goes awry during cell division, leading cells to replicate themselves without any checks in place instead of reproducing and dying off in the normal way. Depending on the type of liver tumor involved, the tumor may be identified in diagnostic screening, or it may remain unknown until someone dies of other causes and the tumor is discovered at an autopsy.
There are two kinds of liver tumors: benign and malignant. In the case of a benign tumor, the growth should not cause health problems such as occluded veins or the spread of secondary tumors. Benign liver tumors often go undiagnosed, and they are sometimes discovered by accident during testing or investigation for something else. Malignant tumors, also known as cancerous tumors, do pose a health threat, and they can damage the liver severely in addition to spreading through the body.
Some liver tumors are primary, which means that they arise in the liver itself. One of the most common forms of primary liver tumor is the hepatocellular carcinoma. Others are secondary tumors which occur when tumors elsewhere in the body metastasize. Tumors on neighboring organs can make a quick jump to the liver, and secondary tumors can also come from more remote parts of the body. Conversely, primary liver tumors can spread to other parts of the body.
Medical imaging can usually reveal a liver tumor, although biopsy will be needed to learn more about it. Sometimes liver tumors grow large enough to be felt as a mass during routine palpation of the abdomen. In either case, the treatment approach to the tumor varies, depending on whether or not it is malignant. Malignant tumors generally need to be removed, and the body will need to be treated with drugs which are designed to prevent regrowth, while benign tumors may be left in situ.
Symptoms of liver tumors can vary. Some people experience no symptoms at all, especially in the case of benign tumors. In other instances, people may feel fatigued, or they can develop jaundice as the tumor interferes with liver function. Jaundice is very recognizable, thanks to the yellow tint which appears in the eyes and skin of patients with jaundice. The tumor may also cause abdominal discomfort, lack of appetite, or digestive problems.