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Liver Cancer

Liver Cancer

Liver cancer can often be prevented by protecting against the viruses that cause liver cancer. Chronic infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C are leading causes of liver cancer.

You can greatly reduce your risk for liver cancer by protecting yourself from these viruses or diagnosing and treating an infection early. Click here to learn more about the link between hepatitis B, hepatitis C and liver cancer.

Screening

There is no routine screening test available for liver cancer, but you can be vaccinated against hepatitis B and screened for the hepatitis B and hepatitis C viruses, which are leading causes of liver cancer. Get tested if you are at risk for hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

All adults ages 18 and older should be screened at least one time for hepatitis C. Those who are pregnant or people with risk factors of any age, including people with HIV, should be screened for hepatitis C.

What Puts You at Increased Risk for Liver Cancer?

You are at increased risk for liver cancer if you:

  • Have hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection.
  • Drink alcohol to excess. Drinking alcohol can lead to cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, which can lead to liver cancer.
  • Use tobacco products.
  • Are obese. People who are obese are more likely to have fatty liver disease and Type 2 diabetes, each of which is linked to liver cancer.
  • Are exposed to cancer-causing chemicals.

All adults ages 18 and older should be screened one time for hepatitis C.

What are the Differences between Hepatitis B and C?

Hepatitis B and hepatitis C are both viral infections that attack the liver, and they have similar symptoms. The most significant differences between hepatitis B and hepatitis C are the transmission and treatment of the disease. People may get hepatitis B from contact with the bodily fluids of a person who has the infection. Hepatitis C usually only spreads through blood-to-blood contact. There is a vaccine for hepatitis B but no cure. Conversely, there is no vaccine for hepatitis C but it can be cured with treatment. Left untreated, both hepatitis B and C can lead to chronic liver infection.

You are at risk for hepatitis B if you:

  • Have had sex (without using a condom) with someone who has hepatitis B.
  • Have had multiple sexual partners.
  • Have a sexually-transmitted disease.
  • Have shared needles to inject drugs.
  • Live with someone who has chronic hepatitis B.
  • Have traveled to (or have come from) a country where many people have hepatitis B.
  • Are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Are a health care provider or first responder exposed to blood at work.
  • Are on long-term hemodialysis.
  • Were born to a mother with hepatitis B.

You are at risk for hepatitis C if you:

  • Have shared needles to inject drugs.
  • Received a blood transfusion or organ transplant before July 1992.
  • Took medicine for a blood-clotting problem before 1987.
  • Received a piercing or tattoo without proper infection control.
  • Are a health care provider or first responder exposed to blood at work.
  • Are on long-term hemodialysis.
  • Are infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Have had sex (without using a condom) with someone who has hepatitis C (less common than with hepatitis B).
  • Were born to a mother with hepatitis C (less common than with hepatitis B).

Reduce Your Risk

  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B.
  • Follow the screening guidelines for hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
  • Seek treatment if you are diagnosed with hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection.
  • Never smoke or use tobacco products. If you do, quit.
  • If you drink, limit your drinking to no more than one drink a day if you are a woman, and no more than one or two a day if you are a man. Drinking alcohol is linked to liver and several other cancers. The more you drink, the greater your risk of cancer. Even drinking small amounts might increase your risk.
  • Practice safer sex and use a new condom the right way every time you have sex to protect yourself. This does not provide 100% protection.

Symptoms

  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • An enlarged liver, felt as a mass under the right side of your ribs
  • An enlarged spleen, felt as a mass under the left side of your ribs
  • Pain in the abdomen or near the right shoulder blade
  • Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Itching
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes
  • Fever
  • Abnormal bruising or bleeding
  • Enlarged veins on the belly that become visible through the skin

Additional Symptoms

Some liver tumors create hormones that affect organs other than the liver. These hormones may cause:

  • Nausea, confusion, constipation, weakness or muscle problems caused by high blood calcium levels
  • Fatigue or fainting caused by low blood-sugar levels
  • Breast enlargement and/or shrinking of the testicles in men
  • A red and flushed appearance caused by high counts of red blood cells
  • High cholesterol levels

 

Treatment Options

Liver cancer is treated through surgery, tumor ablation, tumor embolization, radiation therapy, targeted therapy and chemotherapy. Treatment depends on the stage and type of liver cancer.

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