- The groups of abnormal cells growing in your liver are called liver lesions.
- They are common and usually non-cancerous and do not cause health problems.
- The most common form of noncancerous liver lesion is hemangioma while hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common cancerous form.
Everybody can develop liver lesions, but some conditions can make you more at risk of having cancerous ones:
- Hepatitis B or C: People infected with both viruses have a high risk of developing liver cancer.
- Cirrhosis: Nearly 80% of patients diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma has cirrhosis. Patients with chronic Hepatitis B and C, alcoholism and fatty livers are prone to develop cirrhosis.
- Hemochromatosis or iron storage disease: This condition occurs when your body absorbs too much iron that comes from food, which is stored in your organs including the liver.
- Obesity: You’ll likely get fatty liver disease because fatty deposits build up in the liver.
- Toxic Chemicals: Arsenic is known to grow naturally, but can be poisonous. It is usually found in drinking water. Aflatoxin, though rare in the U.S., forms from molds that grow on grain and nuts that are not properly stored.
Most of the lesions don’t cause any symptoms. People discover them when they go for imaging tests for a different health issue. Symptoms may include abdominal pain or swelling, bloating, nausea and vomiting, changes in the color of stool or urine, weight loss, fatigue, and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).
If the doctor suspects you have liver lesions, further diagnostics are recommended to help determine the kind of treatment you will need.
- Blood tests to check your AFP (alpha-fetoprotein) levels, where an increased level indicates liver cancer. This test is also for viral hepatitis.
- Imaging Tests: MRI uses powerful magnets and radio waves to show detailed images of the liver including the location of the tumor and size. A combined series of X-rays and CT scans give a more complete picture. PET scans use a special dye to show clearer images, and Ultrasound uses high-frequency waves to show live images of the liver.
- Biopsy: This involves taking a small sample from the liver to search for cancerous cells.
If there are no symptoms present, don’t worry about it. If it’s causing problems, but it’s benign, your doctor may suggest surgery to take it out. If the lesion is cancerous, you might need one or more of the following procedures:
- Chemotherapy: A combination of powerful drugs to kill liver cancer cells.
- Transarterial chemoembolization (TACE): A type of chemotherapy that takes drugs directly to the lesion.
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA): The doctor will guide a small probe that releases energy that heats up and kills cancerous cells.
To lower your risk of getting cancerous liver lesions, be physically active, keep a healthy weight, and drink alcohol only in moderation. You can prevent getting hepatitis B or C by getting vaccinated, wearing protection during sex, and stop sharing needles.