Thursday, September 8, 2011

What You Should Know About Liver Cancer

Hepatocellular carcinoma, or liver cancer, is something that's crossed my mind - wondering if I might ever have it - but I've never sought information about it, until now, that is. The US Department of Veterans Affair website offers information about liver cancer, including this list of "Things to know about liver cancer:"
* Liver cancer can cause death in a person with cirrhosis.

* Patients with cirrhosis resulting from any cause, including hepatitis C, hepatitis B, and alcohol use, have a greater risk of developing liver cancer.

* Liver cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world, especially in Asia and Africa, and it is becoming increasingly common in the United States.

* Biopsy refers to extracting a small sample of tissue with a hollow needle and testing it for liver cancer. A biopsy is sometimes needed to make a diagnosis, but imaging and blood tests can usually determine whether liver cancer is present. Biopsies of liver masses can be difficult to perform and there are some risks involved.

* Liver cancer can be treated if it is detected early, but the treatment is very specialized. Patients should discuss the details thoroughly with their health care providers.

* One excellent treatment for early-stage liver cancer is a liver transplant. This is a complicated form of treatment, because a patient first needs to be a good candidate for a liver transplant, then be evaluated at a liver transplant center and placed on a waiting list, and finally, be well enough to undergo a transplant when a donated liver becomes available.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, which is overseen by the National Institutes of Health, "The (prognosis for liver cancer) is poor, because only 10 - 20% of hepatocellular carcinomas can be removed completely using surgery. If the cancer cannot be completely removed, the disease is usually fatal within 3 - 6 months. However, survival can vary, and occasionally people will survive much longer than 6 months."

Photo by Andrew Richards

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