(Malignant Hepatoma; Hepatocellular Carcinoma; Primary Liver Cancer)
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Liver cancer is growth of cancer cells in the liver. The liver is an organ in the right side of the abdomen. It helps with digestion. It also filters and stores blood.
Cancer happens when cells divide without control or order. These cells grow together to form a tumor. They can invade and damage nearby tissues. They can also spread to other parts of the body.
It is not clear what causes changes in the cells. It is likely a combination of genes and environment.
Liver cancer is more common in men, and older adults. Other things that raise the risk are:
There may be no symptoms in the early stages of liver cancer.
When symptoms happen, they may be:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include:
Imaging tests will check for tumors and the spread of cancer. They may include:
The exam and test results are used to diagnose the cancer. They are also used for staging. Staging outlines how far and fast cancer has spread.
The goal is to remove the cancer, if possible. Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer. It also depends on the person's health.
Options may be:
The risk of liver cancer may be reduced by:
American Cancer Society
American Liver Foundation
BC Cancer Agency
Canadian Cancer Society
Embolization therapy for liver cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/treating/embolization-therapy.html. Accessed March 19, 2021.
General information about adult primary liver cancer. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/types/liver/patient/adult-liver-treatment-pdq. Accessed March 19, 2021.
Hepatocellular carcinoma in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hepatocellular-carcinoma-in-adults. Accessed March 19, 2021.
Hepatocellular carcinoma in children. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/hepatocellular-carcinoma-in-children. Accessed March 19, 2021.
Jiang Y, Han QJ, et al. Hepatocellular carcinoma: mechanisms of progression and immunotherapy. World J Gastroenterol. 2019;25(25):3151-3167.
Liver cancer. American Cancer Society website. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer.html. Accessed March 19, 2021.
Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated: 3/19/2021
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