General Information About Adult Primary Liver Cancer
Key Points for This Section
Adult primary liver cancer is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the tissues of the liver.
The liver is one of the largest organs in the body, filling the upper right side of the abdomen inside the rib cage. It has two parts, a right lobe and a smaller left lobe. The liver has many important functions, including:
Having hepatitis or cirrhosis can affect the risk of developing adult primary liver cancer.
The following are possible risk factors for adult primary liver cancer:
Possible signs of adult primary liver cancer include a lump or pain on the right side.
These symptoms may be caused by swelling of the liver. These and other symptoms may be caused by adult primary liver cancer or by other conditions. A doctor should be consulted if any of the following problems occur:
Tests that examine the liver and the blood are used to detect (find) and diagnose adult primary liver cancer.
The following tests and procedures may be used:
Serum tumor marker test: A procedure in which a blood sample is checked to measure the amounts of certain substances released into the blood by organs, tissues, or tumor cells in the body. Certain substances are linked to specific types of cancer when found in increased levels in the blood. These are called tumor markers. An increased level of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) in the blood may be a sign of liver cancer. Other cancers and certain noncancerous conditions, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, may also increase AFP levels.
Complete blood count: A procedure in which a sample of blood is drawn and checked for the following:
Laparoscopy: A surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the abdomen to check for signs of disease. Small incisions (cuts) are made in the wall of the abdomen and a laparoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into one of the incisions. Other instruments may be inserted through the same or other incisions to perform procedures such as removing organs or taking tissue samples for biopsy.
Biopsy: The removal of cells or tissues so they can be viewed under a microscope to check for signs of cancer. The sample may be taken using a fine needle inserted into the liver during an x-ray or ultrasound. This is called needle biopsy or fine-needle aspiration. The biopsy may be done during a laparoscopy.
CT scan (CAT scan): A procedure that makes a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body, taken from different angles. The pictures are made by a computer linked to an x-ray machine. A dye may be injected into a vein or swallowed to help the organs or tissues show up more clearly. This procedure is also called computed tomography, computerized tomography, or computerized axial tomography.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A procedure that uses a magnet, radio waves, and a computer to make a series of detailed pictures of areas inside the body. This procedure is also called nuclear magnetic resonance imaging (NMRI).
Ultrasound: A procedure in which high-energy sound waves (ultrasound) are bounced off internal tissues or organs and make echoes. The echoes form a picture of body tissues called a sonogram.
Certain factors affect prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options.
The prognosis (chance of recovery) and treatment options depend on the following:
Also see childhood liver cancer
Changes to This Summary (05/18/2004)
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