Why is the liver important?

  • Liver is the largest solid organ in your body 
  • Liver is located under your rib cage on the right side.  
  • Liver performs many jobs in your body. 
  • Liver processes what you eat and drink into energy and nutrients 
  • Liver also removes harmful substances from your blood.

What is liver cancer?

  • Liver cancer is the growth and spread of unhealthy cells in the liver. 
  • Cancer that starts in the liver is called primary liver cancer. 
  • Cancer that spreads to the liver from another organ is called metastatic or secondary liver cancer.

What causes liver cancer?

There are several risk factors for liver cancer:

  • Hepatitis B and long-term hepatitis C infection are linked to liver cancer
  • Excessive alcohol use.
  • Obesity and diabetes can lead to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that may increase the risk of liver cancer
  • Certain inherited metabolic diseases.
  • Environmental exposure to aflatoxins.

What are the symptoms of liver cancer?

  • Symptoms may include 
    • fatigue, 
    • bloating, 
    • pain on the right side of the upper abdomen or back and shoulder, 
    • nausea, 
    • loss of appetite, 
    • feelings of fullness, 
    • weight loss, weakness, 
    • fever, and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and the skin).

How is liver cancer diagnosed?

  • Confirm a diagnosis
    • Blood tests AFP, 
    • Ultrasound tests, 
    • Computed tomography (CT) scans, 
    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). 
    • Liver biopsy, especially if there is no intent to surgically remove the cancer. During a biopsy, a small piece of liver tissue is removed and studied in the lab.

How is liver cancer treated?

Liver cancer treatment depends on :

  • The liver’s condition and extent of cirrhosis
  • The size, location and number of tumors 
    • If the cancer has spread outside the liver 
    • The person’s overall health
    • Treatment options if the cancer has not spread and the rest of the liver is healthy 
  • Transplant 
  • if the cancer has not spread, for some patients a liver transplant (replacement of the liver) may be an option
  • Surgery
  •  If the cancer has been found early and the rest of the liver is healthy, doctors may perform surgery to remove the tumor from the liver (partial hepatectomy).
  • Transarterial chemoembolization 
  • If the cancer has not spread, for some patients a transarterial chemoembolisation may be an option
    • TACE are procedures in which the blood supply to the tumor is blocked, after giving anticancer drugs (chemoembolization) and one without (bland embolization). Both are given in blood vessels near the tumor.
  • Radiofrequency Ablation
  • Radiofrequency ablation uses a special probe to destroy cancer cells with heat.
  • Cryosurgery uses a metal probe to freeze and destroy cancer cells.
  • Other treatment options if surgery and transplant are not possible for cancer that has not spread outside the liver:

What is the best way to reduce the risk of liver cancer?

Steps to reduce the risk of liver cancer include:

  • Regularly see a doctor who specializes in liver disease
  • Talk to your doctor about viral hepatitis prevention, including hepatitis B vaccinations
  • Take steps to prevent exposure to hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
  • Treatment for hepatitis B and C
  • If you have cirrhosis or chronic liver disease, follow your doctor’s recommendations for treatment and be screened regularly for liver cancer 
  • If you are overweight or obese, diabetic, or drink heavily, talk to your doctor