Liver Cancer (Hepatocellular Carcinoma)

General Illness Information

Common Name:

Liver Cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma)

Medical Term: None Specified


A malignant tumor arising from liver cells. Although much less common than metastatic liver cancer in most areas of the world, hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common internal malignancy and an important cause of death in certain areas of Africa and Southeast Asia. This is mainly because of the high incidence of Hepatitis B in these areas.

In North America, hepatocellular carcinoma is mainly associated with cirrhosis of the liver.

Causes: Unknown. As noted above, there is a high association with Hepatitis B and C, and cirrhosis of liver.

Prevention: Hepatitis B vaccination and prevention education for high-risk individuals. Minimize alcohol use.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Loss of appetite and weight loss;
  • Mass in the right upper abdomen;
  • Pain in the upper abdomen;
  • Low grade fever;
  • Jaundice;
  • Swollen abdomen from fluid retention;
  • Lethargy;
  • Anemia.

Risk Factors

  • Primary liver disease, such as cirrhosis of the liver;
  • Use of anabolic steroids;
  • Excess alcohol consumption;
  • Previous hepatitis B infection and hepatitis C infection;
  • Long standing hemochromatosis (Iron overload);
  • Metabolic disorders.

Diagnosis & Treatment

A variety of diagnostic tests may be used to confirm diagnosis including blood studies, liver biopsy, X-ray, ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, arteriography, angiography, and radioactive studies.

General Measures:

  • Patient care should involve comprehensive supportive care;
  • Anticancer drugs and radiation therapy are often used. They may afford some relief, but there is no cure;
  • Surgery to remove the tumor may be recommended, depending on type and spread of the disease;
  • Liver transplant may be considered for some patients.


  • Palliative care includes analgesics for pain;
  • Chemotherapy may slow the pace of this disease, but does not appear to affect life span.


As tolerated.


No restrictions.

Possible Complications:

Metastases, Liver failure, Cachexia


The prognosis for hepatocellular carcinoma is usually grim, and treatment is generally unsatisfactory.


Nothing Specified.

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