A liver neoplasm is the term given to liver cancer. It occurs when cancer cells accumulate out of control. The cells gather and grow into malignant tumors on the outside or inside of the liver, which is a process called neoplasia. There are two categories to group neoplasms of the liver: primary and secondary.
Primary liver neoplasm is the term for a liver cancer that has started in the liver. Tumors have occurred only on the outer lining or inside of the liver and have not originated in another location. The types of liver cancer in this category are rare.
Secondary liver neoplasm is the most common category of liver cancer. It is also called metastatic liver cancer. This cancer occurs when cancer cells from a different area of the body spread, then form tumors inside the liver.
There are many different types of liver neoplasm. Although metastatic liver cancers are more common, there are several primary liver cancers that occur more frequently than others. In some cases, a patient may have a rare type of liver cancer, such as hepatoblastoma and angiosarcoma.
Some illnesses and diseases can increase the odds of developing a liver neoplasm. Scarring of the liver, known as cirrhosis, can lead to tumor growth. Hepatitis B and C infections also increase risks. People who suffer from diabetes or obesity also have an increased risk for developing liver cancer.
During its early stages, a liver neoplasm may not cause any symptoms. As the tumors continue to grow, symptoms begin to appear. Weight loss, upper right abdomen pain, and unexplained swelling of the abdomen are common symptoms. A neoplasm may also cause a loss of appetite, nausea, and jaundice.
Doctors will perform a series of tests when a liver neoplasm is suspected. A physical exam is followed with blood tests that check liver function and determine if there are cancer cells present. Imaging scans, such as a computer tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance image (MRI), can provide pictures of the liver. If masses are visible in the image scans, a tissue biopsy may be performed to determine whether tumors are malignant or benign.
Treatment for liver neoplasm varies depending on each patient’s situation and whether the neoplasm is primary or secondary. Common treatments include chemotherapy, radiation, liver transplant, and targeted therapy drugs. A patient may also undergo embolization, which is a procedure that blocks the flow of blood to tumors. Treatments have larger success rates when liver cancer is in its earliest stages.