Tumours of the Liver
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The liver may be involved by secondary tumours.
The most common malignant tumour of the liver
is metastatic tumour. Spread to the liver is via the bloodstream, either from
vein in the case of tumours in the gastrointestinal tract, or by the systemic
circulation for other tumours.
Clinically the liver is enlarged, feeling hard and craggy on palpation.
The lung, breast, colon, and stomach are the most common primary sites of
to the liver. Many other tumours also spread to the liver, but they are
numerically less frequent.
There is often involvement by tumours of the lympho-reticular system, malignant
and by malignant tumours of the bone marrow,leukaemias.
Small deposits of tumour in the liver have little clinical effect but, when
cause compression of the intra-hepatic bile ducts and lead to obstructive
The liver contains multiple nodules of white metastatic tumour. In this instance
lesion was in the breast.
Benign tumours of the liver may be derived from several cell types
Primary hepatocellular carcinoma is predisposed by cirrhosis, hepatitis B
infection and mycotoxins
Primary carcinomas derived from hepatocytes are termed hepatocellular
carcinomas, often referred
to as hepatomas.
The predisposing factors for development are cirrhosis (independent of cause),
infection with chronic carrier status, and mycotoxins contaminating food. For
example, Aspergillus flavus
produces a powerful toxin that readily causes hepatocellular carcinoma and is a
of stored nuts and grains in tropical countries.
The marked geographic variation seen in the incidence of this condition (very
high in Africa
and the Far East) is probably due to environmental levels of mycotoxins and high
hepatitis B carrier rates.
Serum a-fetoprotein levels may be raised in cases of hepato-cellular carcinoma
and are demonstrable
by immunochemistry in tumour cells.
The prognosis is very poor, with a median survival of under 6 months from
Cholangiocarcinoma is predisposed by chronic inflammatory diseases of bile ducts
Adenocarcinomas arising from the intrahepatic bile duct epithelium are termed
They may be predisposed by chronic inflammatory diseases of the intrahepatic
biliary tree, particularly
sclerosing cholangitis and disease caused by liver flukes.
lesions may be single or multifocal and are associated
with a very poor prognosis, most patients being dead within 6 months of
Angiosarcomas of the liver are caused by exposure to environmental agents
Derived from vascular endothelium, angiosarcomas are highly malignant tumours
as multifocal haemorrhagic nodules within the liver.
Importantly, such tumours are rare unless there has been exposure to thorotrast
contrast agent used until the 1950s), vinyl chloride monomer (used in the
plastic industry to make PVC),
arsenic (administered in the past in certain 'tonics'), or anabolic steroids.
Tumour appears as an abnormal mass within the liver. Histologically (b) tumour
is composed of liver cells with atypical nuclear cytology and abnormal
Bile secretion by tumour cells may be seen.
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