A hepatocellular carcinoma, also known as hepatoma, is a cancer that starts in the liver. It is the most common type of cancer originating in the liver.
The first signs of the disease may include:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss
- Large mass that can be felt in the upper right section of the abdomen
People who have had cirrhosis for a long time may also experience:
- Sudden feeling of illness
- Sudden abdominal pain and shock (very low blood pressure) caused by a rupture or bleeding of the tumor
Causes and Risk Factors
Risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma include:
At first, symptoms may not offer clues that the disease is present. When the person has had cirrhosis for a long time and a tumor can be felt in the abdomen, the doctor will suspect hepatocellular carcinoma.
Other ways to detect the disease include:
- Computed tomography (CT) scans
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)scans
- Liver biopsy. For this, a small sample of tissue is taken for examination under a microscope.
The survival rate for people with hepatocellular carcinoma is poor. This is because the tumor is usually discovered at a later stage.
Treatment options include:
- Surgery, if the tumor is small
- Chemotherapy. This can slow the growth of the tumor but not cure the cancer