Understanding your risk
Like other cancers, your risk depends on many variables including:
- Family history
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Lifestyle behaviors (e.g. a diet and exercise)
- Viral infection (e.g. hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV))
- Cirrhosis: a progressive and irreversible condition that causes scar tissue to form in your liver
- Liver diseases (e.g. hemochromatosis, Wilson’s disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease)
- Overall health
At Optum, our oncology department offers comprehensive cancer risk assessments and hereditary cancer genetics evaluation programs to help you identify your risk. Start our online hereditary assessment now ›
- Weight Loss
- Loss of appetite
- Upper abdominal pain (lump or pain in the right side below the rib cage)
- Nausea and vomiting
- General weakness and fatigue
- Abdominal swelling
- Jaundice (yellow discoloration of your skin and the whites of your eyes)
Diagnosing liver cancer
If your physician suspects you may have liver cancer, they may order the following tests:
- Blood test: This blood test checks for elevated levels of the protein, alpha-fetoprotein, which may indicate the presence of liver cancer.
- Imaging tests: A computed tomography (CT) scan is often the most reliable imaging test to discover the extent of liver damage, but an ultrasound or angiogram, which focuses on your blood vessels in the case of potential instances of angiosarcoma, may be performed as well.
- Biopsy: A procedure where a tissue sample is removed and tested to determine if cancerous cells are present.
Types of liver cancer
- Primary liver cancers: Cancers that start in the liver such as hepatocellular carcinoma
- Metastatic cancer: Cancers that start in another part of the body and spread to the liver, such as bile ducts (cholangiocarcinoma), or other tissues (e.g. sarcomas) within the liver
Treatment is individualized based on the characteristics of the liver cancer and the patient themselves. However, the most common treatment options include:
- Surgery: to remove the the tumor or affected area
- Targeted therapy: drugs that attack specific abnormalities within cancer cells or by directing your immune system to kill cancer cells
- Chemotherapy: chemicals administered in pill or IV form to kill and slow the growth of cancer cells
- Liver-directed therapies such as chemoembolization, radioembolization or radiofrequency ablation
Medical care and help
Contact us if you have any questions.