Patient Info

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer is the abnormal growth of cells in the liver. The most common primary liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma. This occurs in the main liver cells known as hepatocytes. While other liver cells can also develop cancer, they are rare.

Many cancers can affect the liver, but not all are considered as liver cancer. These cancers that begin in another part of the body and spread to the liver are known as metastatic cancers or secondary liver cancer.

Liver cancer may not show any symptoms in the preliminary stages, but others may manifest symptoms of nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, upper abdominal pain, abdominal swelling, and yellow discoloration of the eyes and skin (jaundice).

Primary liver cancers or hepatocellular carcinoma may occur as a result of:

  • Birth defects
  • Inherited liver diseases, such as hemochromatosis (excess iron in liver) and Wilson’s disease (excess copper)
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Viral infections such as hepatitis B and C
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse
  • Cirrhosis (healthy tissue is replaced with scar tissue)

Your doctor may order the following tests to diagnose liver cancer:

  • Liver function tests: Blood is checked for liver damage.
  • Imaging studies: MRI, CT and ultrasound can detect abnormalities of the liver, and the extent of cancer (cancer staging).
  • Biopsy: A tissue sample of the liver is obtained and analyzed under a microscope.

Your treatment will be based on the stage of liver cancer, overall health and age.

Liver cancer can be prevented by:

  • Avoiding or limiting alcohol intake
  • Eating a plant-based healthy diet, and avoiding fried and fatty foods
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Reducing the risk of hepatitis B and C infections
  • Using chemicals cautiously at home or work