Liver Cancer Program

The Liver Cancer Program at the Tampa General Hospital Cancer Institute treats some of the most high-risk patients with liver tumors. Our hepatology experts tailor medical management therapies specific to each patient. In some cases, liver resections are performed to remove cancerous segments of the liver, in hopes a full liver transplant can be avoided.

A cancerous liver tumor is an abnormal mass that forms when cellular DNA mutates. This mutation causes the cells to grow and divide uncontrollably. The tumor may originate in the liver or metastasize to the liver after cancerous cells break away from another tumor site in the body and enter the bloodstream. Because the liver continually filters blood received from the rest of the body, it is a common site for cancer to spread. Most malignant liver tumors are metastatic.

Malignant liver tumors are associated with several conditions, such as advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and other hepatobiliary cancers. Some people with liver tumors may be eligible for a liver transplant.

The Comprehensive Liver Disease & Transplant Center at Tampa General Hospital’s Transplant Institute provides expert, comprehensive care for patients with liver tumors. The hepatology experts in our Liver Cancer Program create specialized treatment plans for each patient and determine whether medical management or a transplant is necessary.

What Causes Liver Tumors?

Most liver tumors have no known cause, although researchers have established a link between several unhealthy lifestyle factors and liver cancer. These include:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity
  • Anabolic steroid use

Additionally, medical conditions such as cirrhosis and related complications, fatty liver disease, chronic hepatitis B and C infections, diabetes and certain inherited metabolic and autoimmune diseases are known to increase the risk of liver cancer.

What Are Some Possible Signs of a Liver Tumor?

In addition to abdominal pain, a liver tumor can cause:

  • Swelling or a palpable mass on the right side of the upper abdomen
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • A sensation of fullness after eating a small meal
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
  • Itchy skin
  • Unexplained fatigue

How Are Liver Tumors Diagnosed?

A liver tumor may grow large enough to be seen or felt. Additionally, an imaging study performed for an unrelated reason may reveal an asymptomatic liver mass that warrants further investigation. If appropriate, a physician may order a biopsy to confirm or rule out a liver cancer diagnosis.

Treatment Options for Liver Tumors at TGH

Treatment for a malignant liver tumor can vary depending on the type and stage of cancer. To address a single tumor with no blood vessel involvement, a partial hepatectomy may be the best option. This surgical procedure removes the affected area of the liver while keeping a sufficient portion of the organ intact. If surgery poses a high risk of liver failure, such as in the case of cirrhosis, a liver transplant may be a better option.

The hepatobiliary cancer and liver transplant experts at the Comprehensive Liver Disease & Transplant Center thoroughly evaluate patients to determine eligibility for liver transplants.