What is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)?
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common form of liver cancer. It is a serious disease that can be life threatening. If diagnosed early, hepatocellular carcinoma can be treated with surgery to remove the cancerous tumor or a liver transplant. Other treatments can shrink the tumor or slow its growth and relieve symptoms. Hepatocellular carcinoma is associated withcirrhosisInonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). People with cirrhosis or NAFLD should be screened regularly for signs of hepatocellular carcinoma.
How does hepatocellular carcinoma affect my body?
Over time, it can cause hepatocellular carcinomaliver failure. Before that happens, however, hepatocellular carcinoma can prevent the liver from controlling the body's vital functions. Among others, your liver:
- It monitors your body's nutrients, converting them into substances your body can use, storing and transporting them to your cells if needed.
- It accumulates toxic substances, making sure they are harmless or released from the body.
- It supports healthy blood flow by producing substances that help blood clot and remove infection-causing bacteria.
Who does it affect?
Men aged 60 years and older are more likely to develop hepatocellular carcinoma than women and younger men.
How common is hepatocellular carcinoma?
With about six new cases per year per 100,000 people in the United States, hepatocellular carcinoma is considered a relatively rare form of cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma accounts for approximately 85-90% of all primary liver cancers, which are cancers that start in the liver and not elsewhere in the body.
Is hepatocellular carcinoma the same as liver cancer?
There are several typesliver cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common form of liver cancer.
Can hepatocellular carcinoma be cured?
The best treatment is surgery to remove the tumor or a liver transplant. If surgery is not an option, there are other treatments that can relieve symptoms, slow tumor growth, and help you live longer.
Is hepatocellular carcinoma a fast-growing cancer?
Initially, hepatocellular carcinoma grows very slowly. It can be years before you notice symptoms. The development of hepatocellular carcinoma accelerates as it progresses.
What is the life expectancy of a person with hepatocellular carcinoma?
Every case of hepatocellular carcinoma is different. Your prediction – or expected outcome – depends on several factors. Talk to your doctor about your individual situation. They will have a detailed insight into your situation and what you can expect.
Symptoms and causes
What are the symptoms of hepatocellular carcinoma?
There are many conditions with the same symptoms as hepatocellular carcinoma. Having one or more of these symptoms does not mean you have hepatocellular carcinoma. However, if you have these symptoms, talk to your doctor. They will identify and treat the condition that caused the symptoms. Possible hepatocellular symptoms include:
- You will lose weight effortlessly.
- After a small meal, you feel very full or do not have much of an appetite.
- You have nausea and vomiting.
- You notice a fullness or lump under the ribs on the right side. This may mean that your liver is enlarged.
- You notice fullness under the ribs on the left side. This may be a sign of an enlarged spleen.
- You feel abdominal pain or pain in the area of the right shoulder blade.
- Your stomach is swollen as if it is filling up with fluid.
- Your skin itches.
- Your eyes and skin turn yellow or yellow. This could be a sign that you havejaundice.
What causes hepatocellular carcinoma?
Liver cirrhosis is the most common cause of hepatocellular carcinoma. Increasingly, health professionals are reporting cases of hepatocellular carcinoma in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). There are other medical conditions and activities that increase the risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma.
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Type 2 diabetes.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
If you suffer or have suffered from any of these conditions, talk to your doctor about screening for hepatocellular carcinoma. If you smoke, are obese or drink a lot of alcohol, your provider can help you improve your health and reduce your risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma.
Diagnosis and testing
How is hepatocellular carcinoma diagnosed?
Health professionals will perform a medical examination and ask about your medical history, including any medical conditions and activities that may increase your risk.
They may also perform the following tests:
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Computed tomography (CT).
- Bone scan.
- Blood, blood chemistry and blood clotting.
- Liver function.
- Kidney function (blood tests to check how well your kidneys are clearing waste).
Management and treatment
How is hepatocellular carcinoma treated?
There are several ways to treat hepatocellular carcinoma. Healthcare professionals will develop a treatment plan that takes into account your general health, how well your liver is working, and the size of your tumour.
In addition, he or she will talk to you about treatment goals, options, and possible side effects. They want you to have a complete picture of your situation so you can be confident in your decisions. When they share information, they will ask about your personal preferences. The final treatment plan will reflect your doctor's recommendations and your preferences.
What are the surgical treatments for hepatocellular carcinoma?
Surgical treatment is hepatectomy andliver transplant. A hepatectomy is usually performed when the liver is working well and the tumor is confined to one part of the liver.
What are the other treatments for hepatocellular carcinoma?
Other treatments include:
- Ablative therapy. Your doctor uses a special needle to burn the tumors.
- Embolization therapy or chemoembolization. Healthcare workers inject chemotherapy drugs into the main hepatic artery, which carries the drugs to the tumor. They then temporarily block the artery, allowing the drugs to stay in the tumor longer.
- Targeted therapy. This treatment stops the growth of cancer cells and limits damage to healthy cells by targeting the genes of the cancer cells.
Care at a clinic in Cleveland
- Treatment of liver cancer
- Find a doctor and specialists
- Make an appointment
How can I reduce my risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma?
Fortunately, there are several ways to reduce your risk of developing hepatocellular carcinoma:
- Get vaccinated for hepatitis B. There is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
- If you suspect you may have hepatitis B or C, talk to your doctor.
- Reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.
- Maintain a healthy weight for yourself.
Can I have an infection that increases my risk and not know it?
Hepatitis C is a risk factor for hepatocellular carcinoma. You can have hepatitis C without having symptoms or knowing you are infected. Certain activities and medical conditions increase your risk of hepatitis C infection. Talk to your doctor if:
- Have had unprotected sex in the last six months, shared needles for drug use in the last six months or ever injected drugs.
- You haveHIV.
- You were or are in the long runhemodialysis.
- You were born between 1945 and 1965. Most people in the United States with hepatitis C were born during these years.
- Before 1987, you had blood clotting problems that you treated with medication.
- Prior to July 1992, a blood transfusion or organ transplant was performed. That's when health professionals began screening blood and organs for hepatitis C.
Prospects / Forecasts
Can hepatocellular carcinoma be cured?
Researchers are still looking for ways to treat hepatocellular carcinoma. If your condition is diagnosed early, you may have surgery to remove the tumor. You may have a liver transplant. People diagnosed later can still benefit from treatment and support to help them live longer and enjoy a good quality of life.
They live with me
How do I care for myself?
It is very difficult to hear that you have a life-threatening disease such as hepatocellular carcinoma. It's perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious and even scared. Give yourself and your loved ones some time to deal with initial feelings. Share your feelings with your doctor. They will have suggestions to help you cope with your cancer diagnosis. Here are some steps you can take:
- Track your questions and concerns about your condition and treatment. Asking questions helps you understand what to expect and what you can do to help yourself.
- Cancer is stressful. You may find that exercises such as meditation, relaxation exercises, or deep breathing can help reduce stress.
- Your treatment may affect your appetite. Try to eat healthily, and if you have problems with eating, talk to a dietitian.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Cancer can be lonely. Sometimes it's hard to talk to loved ones about your condition. Your doctor can refer you to support groups and programs where you can share your thoughts and feelings with people who understand what you're going through.
When should I see my doctor?
Contact your provider if existing symptoms worsen or you notice new symptoms.
When should I go to the emergency room?
Hepatocellular carcinoma can cause unusual or excessive bleeding. Go to the emergency room or get medical help right away if you start bleeding from bumps and bruises or from the rectum.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
You will have a variety of questions during diagnosis and treatment. Here are some starting questions you might want to ask:
- How well is my liver working?
- Has my cancer spread beyond the liver?
- Can my cancer be cured?
- What are my treatment options?
- Why do you recommend these options?
- What are the side effects of each treatment?
- How will each treatment affect my daily life?
- How soon should we make a decision about treatment?
- How will we know if the treatment is working?
- What are my options if the initial treatment doesn't work?
Frequently asked questions
Note from the Cleveland clinic
There is no ideal way to deal with a life-threatening disease like hepatocellular carcinoma. But you can do everything to help yourself and your loved ones get through this difficult time. To be more confident in your choices, take the time to understand your treatment options and side effects. To feel less stressed, try meditation, deep breathing, or gentle exercise. To avoid feeling isolated, share your experiences with others who are going through the same - these conversations can help you and can help them.