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Home > Cancers Treated > Liver Cancer

Liver Cancer

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Liver cancer is one of the few cancers in the United States that’s on the rise, affecting the largest organ in the body and the one responsible for filtering out harmful substances, among other tasks.

What is liver cancer?

Primary liver cancer starts in the liver, whereas metastatic liver cancer starts elsewhere in the body and spreads to the liver. Because the liver is composed of different types of cells, many types of tumors can form in the liver.

Who develops liver cancer?

Certain risk factors may make you more likely to develop liver cancer, including:

  • being male (primary liver cancer is about twice as common in men than women)
  • cirrhosis of the liver (typically from a hepatitis infection or heavy alcohol use)
  • heavy alcohol use (more than two drinks a day over many years)
  • hepatitis B or C infection
  • low birth weight
  • obesity and diabetes

Having one or more of these risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll develop liver cancer. Most often, it’s uncertain why someone develops cancer.

What are the symptoms of liver cancer?

Liver cancer may not cause symptoms until it has reached an advanced stage, which makes it more difficult to treat. If symptoms are present, they may include:

  • a lump or pain on the right side of the abdomen
  • bloating
  • fatigue or weakness
  • feeling “full”
  • fever
  • jaundice (yellowing of the skin)
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea
  • unexplained weight loss

Because these symptoms can indicate other illnesses, it’s important to talk with your physician if you experience these symptoms.

How is liver cancer diagnosed?

If you have symptoms of liver cancer, your physician will likely perform a physical exam (checking for jaundice or feeling the abdomen for fluid buildup, for example), as well as blood tests, imaging tests, such as ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan and angiogram. He or she may also perform a biopsy to remove a small sample of the liver for further analysis.

How is liver cancer treated?

Treatment for liver cancer varies depending on a variety of factors, including the number, size, and location of tumors in the liver; its stage; and whether you have cirrhosis. Treatment may include surgery, including a liver transplant; ablation to destroy the tumor(s); embolization to block blood flow to the tumor; radiation; chemotherapy; and targeted therapy (medications that target cancer-causing gene changes in cells). Your physician can determine the best treatment for you.

Valley Hospital is proud to offer the latest treatment options for liver cancer, including minimally invasive surgery through its Institute for Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery. For more information, call 201-447-8012.

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