Liver Cancer

(Hepatocellular Carcinoma)



What is liver cancer?

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), or liver cancer, occurs when liver cells replicate and a mutation occurs, developing into a tumor that grows out of control, inhibiting the liver from functioning normally. The liver has sever important functions, including filtering the blood coming from the digestive tract, metabolizing drugs and detoxifying chemicals before passing them to the rest of the body, as well as making proteins for clotting. Liver cancer can be caused by chronic viral hepatitis, other health conditions such as fatty liver or NASH, and/or exposure to chemicals. Gender and race/ethnicity may influence what type of liver cancer an individual is prone to. 


What are the risk factors for developing liver cancer?

The primary risk factor for developing liver cancer is having a chronic infection with hepatitis B and/or C.  Heavy drinking (15 drinks or more per week for men, 8 drinks or more per week for women) can also lead to liver cancer, as can smoking, obesity (having a Body Mass Index of 30.0 or higher), diabetes, Hemochromatosis (a condition where the body stores more iron than needed), and/or exposure to toxins.


What are the symptoms of liver cancer?

Symptoms of HCC vary, and may include discomfort, lumps, and/or swelling of the abdomen; jaundice (yellowing of the skin, eyes, and/or fingernails); easy bruising or bleeding; fatigue, nausea and vomiting; loss of appetite; and/or weight loss for no known reason.


What are the treatment options for liver cancer?

The primary treatment for early liver cancer is surgery. If you cannot have surgery or the cancer is more advanced, treatment may include radiation therapy, thermal ablasion, or alcohol (ethanol) injection. For people with advanced hepatocellular cancer (HCC), chemotherapy or targeted therapy with sorafenib may be options.


What are the statistics? 

There were 22,972 deaths to liver cancer in the United States in 2014.


How can liver cancer be prevented? 

Among the most effective ways to reduce the risk of developing liver cancer is to avoid exposure to the hepatitis B and C viruses. Vaccines for hepatitis B are commonly available for children and adults. If you are at risk for hepatitis B or C infection, consider undergoing a screening test.  Limiting alcohol and tobacco use, getting to and staying at a healthy weight, limiting exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, and treating diseases that increase risk are all additional ways to reduce risk and prevent liver cancer.


Where can I get tested for liver cancer?

If you suspect you are at risk for liver cancer, speak with your primary care physician about running liver function tests, imaging (ultrasound) and/or a liver biopsy.


Where can I get more information?


Liver Health Connection
 1-800-522-4372 or visit the website at  

Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment 


National Cancer Institute 


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 


America Cancer Society 

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