At a Glance
Why Get Tested?
To evaluate your risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); to evaluate HCC treatment; to monitor for recurrence
When to Get Tested?
Periodically when you have chronic liver disease or have been treated for hepatocellular carcinoma
A blood sample drawn from a vein in your arm
Test Preparation Needed?
The Test Sample
What is being tested?
This test measures the amount of des-gamma-carboxy prothrombin (DCP) in the blood. DCP is an abnormal form of prothrombin, a clotting factor produced by the liver. DCP can be produced by liver tumors, and levels are frequently elevated when a person has hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). This makes the test potentially useful as a tumor marker.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of liver cancer, accounting for 3 of 4 cancers that originate in the liver. ACS estimates that about 22,620 new liver cancers will be diagnosed in the U.S in 2009 and about 18,160 people will die of the disease. Liver cancer is much more common in other parts of the world, with more than 500,000 people diagnosed each year.
Most cases of HCC develop in those who have chronic liver diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis. In the U.S., the most common risk factor for HCC is a chronic hepatitis C infection; worldwide it is chronic hepatitis B. When it occurs, HCC may emerge several decades after the initial infection. HCC affects more males than females, with the average age of diagnosis at 64 years. Symptoms of HCC, such as a liver mass, abdominal pain, weight loss, nausea, ascites, jaundice, and a worsening of symptoms in those with chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis, are often not present until the later stages of the disease. For this reason, HCC is rarely detected early unless screening is done in high risk persons.
How is the sample collected for testing?
A blood sample is obtained by inserting a needle into a vein in the arm.
NOTE: If undergoing medical tests makes you or someone you care for anxious, embarrassed, or even difficult to manage, you might consider reading one or more of the following articles: Coping with Test Pain, Discomfort, and Anxiety, Tips on Blood Testing, Tips to Help Children through Their Medical Tests, and Tips to Help the Elderly through Their Medical Tests.
Another article, Follow That Sample, provides a glimpse at the collection and processing of a blood sample and throat culture.
Is any test preparation needed to ensure the quality of the sample?
No test preparation is needed.
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NOTE: This article is based on research that utilizes the sources cited here as well as the collective experience of the Lab Tests Online Editorial Review Board. This article is periodically reviewed by the Editorial Board and may be updated as a result of the review. Any new sources cited will be added to the list and distinguished from the original sources used.
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