Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a tumor of the liver and the most common form of primary liver cancer (liver cancer that begins in the liver as opposed to a cancer that has spread to the liver from another part of the body). One of the most common cancers worldwide, it has been increasing in prevalence in the United States, primarily because of the increased number of people with cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver due to hepatitis C infection. Cirrhosis of the liver can also be the result of alcohol abuse, hepatitis B, autoimmune liver disease, or other conditions that cause chronic inflammation of the liver.
Symptoms: Many people with this form of cancer do not experience any symptoms. Liver cancer is often discovered as part of routine follow up tests for a previous cancer outside of the liver, or during diagnostic tests for the presence of cirrhosis or viral hepatitis B or C. Symptoms of HCC may include: pain on the right side of the upper abdomen, the right shoulder, or back; lack of appetite; nausea; unintended weight loss; and fever. Abdominal or leg swelling can also be symptom in patients with chronic liver disease.
If diagnosed early, HCC can be successfully treated with surgery to remove the tumor, or by a liver transplant. Chemotherapy and radiation are sometimes used in advance of such procedures to shrink the size of the cancerous growth (tumor). Often, however, since the condition is not detected in its earliest stages by the time of diagnosis the tumor has grown too large to remove in its entirety. In such cases, there is no cure – although medication can retard the growth of the tumor.
We Can Help
For additional assistance from an outreach liaison, please contact:
Sharyn Kreitzer, MSW
Senior Outreach Liaison