What You Need To Know About Liver Cancer

A cancer that starts in the liver is called primary liver cancer. There are several different types of primary liver cancer. The most common type is hepatocellular carcinoma, which begins in the main type of liver cell (hepatocyte). Other types of liver cancer, like intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma, are less common.

Not all cancers in the liver are considered liver cancer. Metastatic cancer, which starts in another organ, but then spreads would be named after the organ in which it began. Cancer that spreads to the liver is more common than cancer that begins in the liver. If you have questions or want to make an appointment, call (713) 798-2262.

Prevention and Risk Factors

Liver cancer can be prevented by reducing your exposure to the known risk factors. Most often, people who are diagnosed with liver cancer have chronic liver disease, called cirrhosis. Long-term liver damage scars your liver, increasing the risk of cancer.

Additional risk factors include:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Family history in a first-degree relative
  • Obesity
  • Hepatitis B and C
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Tobacco use
  • High iron count in blood

Symptoms

Liver cancer is not symptomatic until it is extensive. As the tumor grows, you may have pain in the right side of your abdomen and/or a full feeling during meals.

As the cancer grows, some commons liver cancer symptoms are:

  • Weight loss
  • Wasting (cachexia - a condition where weight loss, muscle atrophy, appetite loss and fatigue are present)
  • Decreased appetite
  • Increased swelling of the feet and belly
  • Swollen legs
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)

Screening and Diagnosis

Liver cancer can be diagnosed through:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests
  • Liver biopsy

Patients diagnosed with chronic hepatitis B or C virus infections or cirrhosis should be screened regularly with blood tests and ultrasound to detect hepatocellular cancer at any stage.

Treatment

The stage in which your cancer is, and the overall health of your liver will affect your treatment plan. Treatments can include liver resection, liver transplant, tumor ablation, tumor embolization, radiation therapy, targeted therapy and chemotherapy.

Patients also have access to National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trials.