Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) is the fastest growing solid tumor in the United States and is the 3rd leading killer of all cancers worldwide. It is a solid tumor that starts in the liver but can spread throughout the body.
The main cause of liver cancer is liver cirrhosis. There are many causes of cirrhosis, but the most common in the United States is hepatitis C. Any cause of liver cirrhosis can lead to cancer, and some patients with hepatitis B get cancer of the liver even without cirrhosis.
Liver cancer is silent and can only be found through imaging such as ultrasound, CT scan or MRI scans. People with advanced liver disease should be monitored for liver cancer every 6 months. It is important to find it early!
Blood tests are done to assess the cause of liver disease or cirrhosis, but imaging with ultrasound, CT or MRI scans are done, and in some cases, liver biopsy is done to confirm cancers. All patients with cancer of the liver should be seen by a hepatologist (liver specialist) and by liver surgeons at a transplant center.
If caught early, liver cancer is treatable and even curable. There are many treatment options including destroying the cancer cells with heat, cutting the cancer out (surgery) or in some cases a liver transplant. There are also experimental treatments for advanced cases.
Patients with advanced liver disease have to have an ultrasound every 6 months! The best way to cure liver cancer is to find it early.