Cancer that starts in another location and then spreads to the liver keeps the name of its origin. Metastatic breast or lung cancer, for example, is still considered “breast” or “lung cancer” and is treated accordingly. “Liver cancer” originates in the liver. The most common form in the U.S. is hepatocellular carcinoma, cancer that arises from liver cells called hepatocytes. According to the American Cancer Society, this type encompasses about 3 out of 4 cases of primary liver cancer. Another 1 or 2 cases out of 10 are cholangiocarcinomas, cancers that start in the bile ducts. Liver cancer is frequently asymptomatic at first, so it is not usually diagnosed in its earliest stages. Those with chronic hepatitis B and C and those with cirrhosis are at an increased risk of developing liver cancer. Many patients with cirrhosis or advanced chronic hepatitis are regularly screened for liver cancer to detect it early, when it may be more treatable.
- AFP (alpha-fetoprotein), AFP-L3% – to help evaluate risk, diagnose, and monitor for recurrence
- DCP (Des-gamma-carboxy prothrombin) – to evaluate risk and monitor for recurrence
- Liver biopsy – to diagnose
- CT (computed tomography)
- MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
For more information on these imaging procedures, see the web site RadiologyInfo.