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"How common are liver lesions?"


My husband is 55 and just had a scan to examine his liver. The doctor said he had a lesion, but that it might not be serious or threatening. Is that common? What can cause a malignant lesion, and what does one do to treat them? Or can they be left alone?


First, I should say that stating that he has a lesion in his liver only states that there was an abnormality on the scan. Although lesions can be tumors, they can also be infections or areas of trauma. Since the most likely possibility is that his is some kind of tumor, I'll discuss those possibilities below.

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1. Cavernous Hemangioma - These are the most common liver tumor and they are benign. Symptoms only occur if they become big enough to press on another structure. There is a small risk that they can burst an bleed, but this risk is low unless they are very large in which case they are removed. Otherwise the tumors are left alone. They are not biopsied because of the risk of bleeding. 2. Hepatocellular Adenoma - This is another benign tumor, but is typically found in young women taking birth control pills. 3. Hepatocellular Carcinoma - Malignant tumor of the liver. This type of tumor is rare in the United States. It is associated with Hepatitis B and C infection and liver cirrhosis. 4. Metastatic disease - Sometimes liver tumors are really metastatic cancer from another site. The most common tumor to metastasize to the liver is colon cancer. Some of these can be distinguished just by the imaging, others require biopsy. I would ask the physician who ordered the liver scan which of these possibilities he or she thinks it is. Good luck.

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