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Healthcare: Cancer Care

Liver Cancer

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What You Need To Know About Liver Cancer

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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.

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Prevention and Risk Factors

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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
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Symptoms

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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)
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Screening and Diagnosis

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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.

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Treatment

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Baylor Medicine offers patients access to specialists in all areas of care for liver cancer. Patients with cancer that has spread from other organs to the liver (colorectal, breast, neuroendocrine, sarcomas and others) are evaluated by a multidisciplinary team including an experienced liver surgeon, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and diagnostic specialists.

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.

Treatment, including surgical tumor removal or ablation, is customized for each patient. Patients with primary liver cancer (hepatocellular cancer, bile duct cancer, and gallbladder cancer) are managed by the same team of experts, but for hepatocellular cancer liver transplant surgeons and liver disease experts (hepatologists) also participate in planning and delivery of optimal care. Patients receive state-of-the-art treatment, including the opportunity to participate in novel approaches and clinical trials.

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