Hepatic Neoplasia

The liver sits just behind the diaphragm within the abdominal cavity. The liver’s major functions are protein, fat, and sugar metabolism as well as blood detoxification. The liver receives a tremendous amount of blood from the abdominal organs to be filtered repeatedly each day. Due to the large blood supply the liver receives, the liver is susceptible to inflammation and tumor development. Two main types of cancer develop in the liver: 1) primary tumors and 2) metastatic tumors. Primary tumors begin their growth in the liver; the most common is hepatocellular carcinoma. Metastatic tumors are far more common. Blood flowing into the liver provides essential nutrients for the body, but it can also carry cancerous cells that have broken free from other places in the body. The cancerous cells attach to the liver tissue and begin to grow. Symptoms of liver cancer may be vague: general malaise, jaundice (yellow skin color), decreased appetite, and weight loss are common. Liver cancer may be suspected based on physical examination findings, blood work results, and abdominal ultrasound findings; a biopsy of the liver is necessary to confirm the diagnosis. Treatment depends on the type of tumor found. Primary liver tumors are often treated with surgical removal while metastatic tumors often require chemotherapy to slow down their growth.

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