What is liver cancer?
Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) is a type of cancer that causes abnormal growth in the cells of your liver (hepatocyte). Not all cases of cancer in the liver is hepatocellular carcinoma because cancers could have started in another area of the body and then spread to the liver; this is called metastatic cancer.
What causes liver cancer?
Diseases which causes changes in the DNA of liver cells (mutations) can cause liver cancer. Also, the presence of severe scarring in the liver (fibrosis and cirrhosis) from any liver disease can put you at risk for having liver cancer.
What are the symptoms of liver cancer?
The symptoms are liver cancer may involve the whole body and include:
– Losing weight without trying
– Loss of appetite
– Abdominal pain
– Nausea and vomiting
What are the signs of liver disease?
– yellowing of skin
– abdominal swelling
The most important way to prevent liver cancer is to not get any type of liver disease, and to prevent severe liver scarring (cirrhosis) from happening; this means avoiding alcohol and treating infections (such as viral hepatitis) to stop liver inflammation and scarring.
Who should get tested for liver cancer? What tests are available?
Anyone with severe liver scarring (cirrhosis) and some liver infections (such as hepatitis B) should be tested yearly. Testing includes: 1) blood tests and 2) radiology studies (computed tomography or CT or CAT scans, and magnetic resonance imaging or MRI). If there is a concern for cancer, your doctor may ask to get some cells to look at under the microscope (biopsy).
I was diagnosed with liver cancer. What treatment options are there?
If the cancer has spread or is advanced, treatment may not be an option. However, treatment options involve killing the cancer cells or removing the cancer from the body, and include:
Ablation therapy: some special procedures can stop the blood supply to the cancer cells and cause them to die.
Chemotherapy: some chemotherapies can target the cancer cells, causing them to die
Surgery: depending on the location of the cancer, sometimes part of the liver can be removed, or the cancer itself can be removed from the body using special surgeries
Liver transplantation: if liver scarring is also present, then liver transplant may be needed
The choice of treatment will depend on whether the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Your doctor can talk to you to decide the best treatment option.
My doctor said I should consider being in a “clinical study.” What is a clinical study?
Scientists work to cure diseases, and new medications are being developed to treat hepatitis B infection. A clinical study is research using human volunteers; it is intended to add to medical knowledge, and can involve 1) only collecting information over time (observational) or 2) a medication or other treatment (interventional or experimental). For some people, the current medications may not be an option (or the best choice), so clinical studies may help allow access to other treatments. If this is an option being considered, then talk to your doctor and the study developers to learn more about the clinical study design and whether it is right for you.
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