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Cancer Center

Liver & Bile Duct Cancers
Digestive cancers
Definition

The largest internal organ of the body, the liver is responsible for filtering harmful substances from the body so they may be eliminated through urine or stool. The liver produces bile, a digestive juice that helps the body digest fats. Liver cancer occurs when cancerous cells grow in this organ.

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Symptoms

The causes of liver cancer are unknown. It usually affects people over the age of 60. Risk factors may include:

  • Chronic hepatitis B and/or hepatitis C
  • Family history of hepatitis and liver cancer
  • Liver disease, such as cirrhosis
  • Eating foods that have aflatoxin, a fungal substance that grows on nuts and grains
  • Tobacco use
  • Use of anabolic steroids

The early stages of liver cancer may produce no symptoms. As the cancer develops, symptoms may be caused by a swelling of or a growth in the liver. Common symptoms of liver cancer include:

  • Development of a lump on the right of the body
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Pain near the right shoulder blade
  • Appetite loss
  • Nausea
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Exhaustion

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Treatment

Tests that examine the liver and the blood are used to detect and diagnose adult primary liver cancer. The following tests and procedures may be used:

  • Blood Tests
  • Laparoscopy - a surgeon makes small incisions in the wall of the abdomen and inserts a thin, lighted tube with a camera to look for signs of liver cancer and, if needed, take samples of tissue for biopsy.
  • Biopsy
  • CT scans
  • MRI

If initial testing indicates the presence of liver cancer, treatment will depend on the stage of the cancer and may include:

  • Targeted drug therapy
  • Radiation therapy
  • Surgery (Partial Hepatectomy)
  • Laparoscopic liver resections
  • Hepatic pumps – delivery of chemotherapy directly to the liver through the hepatic artery
  • Chemoembolization – chemotherapy injected directly into the liver and blood supply of the tumor.
  • TheraSphere, an FDA-approved outpatient treatment for inoperable liver cancer.
  • Microwave ablation

For additional information on programs, services and locations, download and print the following PDFs:

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Our Team

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