About Us

Return to Liver Tumors Overview

More on Liver Tumors

Surgical Services

Return to Liver Tumors Overview

More on Liver Tumors

Health Library

Return to Liver Tumors Overview

More on Liver Tumors

Patient and Visitor Guides to our Hospital

Return to Liver Tumors Overview

More on Liver Tumors

Clinical Trials

Return to Liver Tumors Overview

More on Liver Tumors

Liver Tumors

What is a tumor?

Tumors are abnormal masses of tissue that form when cells begin to reproduce at an increased rate. The liver can grow both non-cancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant) tumors.

What are non-cancerous liver tumors?

Non-cancerous (benign) tumors are quite common and usually do not produce symptoms. Often, they are not diagnosed until an ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scan, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan is performed. There are several types of benign liver tumors, including the following:

  • hepatocellular adenoma
    This benign tumor occurs most often in women of childbearing age. Most of these tumors remain undetected. Sometimes, an adenoma will rupture and bleed into the abdominal cavity, requiring surgery. Adenomas can become cancerous, but this is rare.
  • hemangioma
    This type of benign tumor is a mass of abnormal blood vessels. Up to five percent of adults have small liver hemangiomas that cause no symptoms. Treatment is usually not required. Sometimes, patients with large liver hemangiomas require surgery to prevent clotting and heart failure or for severe symptoms.  Hemangiomas never become cancerous.

What are cancerous liver tumors?

Cancerous (malignant) tumors in the liver have either originated in the liver (primary liver cancer) or spread from cancer sites elsewhere in the body (metastatic liver cancer). Most cancerous tumors in the liver are metastatic.

What is hepatoma (primary liver cancer)?

Also called hepatocellular carcinoma, this is the most common form of primary liver cancer. Chronic infection with hepatitis B and C increases the risk of developing this type of cancer. Other causes include cancer-causing substances, alcoholism, and chronic liver cirrhosis.

What are the symptoms of a liver hepatoma?

The following are the most common symptoms of a liver hepatoma. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • abdominal pain
  • weight loss
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • large mass can be felt in upper, right part of abdomen
  • fever
  • jaundice - yellowing of the skin and eyes.

The symptoms of a liver hepatoma may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is liver hepatoma diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for a liver hepatoma may include the following:

  • liver function tests - a series of special blood tests that can determine if the liver is functioning properly.
  • abdominal ultrasound (Also called sonography.) - a diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs of the abdomen such as the liver spleen, and kidneys and to assess blood flow through various vessels.
  • computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure using a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays. 
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body. 
  • hepatic arteriography - x-rays taken after a substance in injected into the hepatic artery.
  • liver biopsy - a procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope.

Treatment for liver hepatoma:

Specific treatment for liver hepatoma will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference

Treatment may include:

  • surgery
    Surgery may be necessary to remove cancerous tissue, as well as nearby non-cancerous tissue. Total surgical removal of the liver lobe or removal of segments of the liver may be performed.
  • chemotherapy 
    Chemotherapy, which can be used locally (chemoembolization) or systemically, uses anticancer drugs to kill cancer cells.
  • local ablation
    The tumor is destroyed through radiofrequency ablation, or by injection of alcohol or acetic acid.
  • liver transplantation

What are other types of primary liver cancers?

Other, less common primary liver cancers include the following:

  • cholangiocarcinoma - a cancer that originates in the lining of the bile channels in the liver or in the bile ducts.
  • hepatoblastoma - a common cancer in infants and children, sometimes causing the release of hormones that result in early puberty.
  • angiosarcoma - a rare cancer that originates in the blood vessels of the liver.

What are the stages of liver cancer?

When a physician diagnoses liver cancer, the next step is to determine how far the cancer cells have spread (a process called staging). The National Cancer Institute defines the following stages for primary liver cancer:

localized resectable Cancer is in one place and can be removed completely with surgery.
localized unresectable Cancer is in one place, but cannot be totally removed.
advanced Cancer has spread through the liver and other parts of the body.
recurrent Cancer has come back after it was treated.

What is metastatic liver cancer?

Cancer that has spread from other areas in the body to the liver usually originated in the lung, breast, colon, pancreas, and stomach. Leukemia and other blood cancers sometimes also spread to the liver.

What are the symptoms of metastatic liver cancer?

The following are the most common symptoms of metastatic liver cancer. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • weight loss
  • poor appetite
  • enlarged, hard and tender liver
  • fever
  • enlarged spleen
  • ascites - fluid build-up in the abdominal cavity.
  • jaundice - yellowing of the skin and eyes.
  • confusion
  • drowsiness

The symptoms of metastatic liver cancer may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.

How is metastatic liver cancer diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for metastatic liver cancer may include the following:

  • liver function tests - a series of special blood tests that can determine if the liver is functioning properly.
  • abdominal ultrasound (Also called sonography.) - a diagnostic imaging technique which uses high-frequency sound waves to create an image of the internal organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs of the abdomen such as the liver spleen, and kidneys and to assess blood flow through various vessels.
  • computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan) - a diagnostic imaging procedure using a combination of x-rays and computer technology to produce cross-sectional images (often called slices), both horizontally and vertically, of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general x-rays.
  • magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) - a diagnostic procedure that uses a combination of large magnets, radiofrequencies, and a computer to produce detailed images of organs and structures within the body.
  • liver biopsy - a procedure in which tissue samples from the liver are removed (with a needle or during surgery) from the body for examination under a microscope.

  • Bookmark
  • Print


Surgical Services


Top of page

by Last Name
    by Condition or Specialty
      Surgical Services
        by Last Name
        by Condition or Specialty
        Surgical Services
        View Full Profile

        Mini-Profile

        Phone: (212) 746-6006
        Fax: (212) 746-8753
        Address: 525 E. 68th Street
        Starr 8
        New York, NY 10065
        Clinical Expertise