Liver Cancer

Each year, more than 42,000 people will be diagnosed with liver cancer and nearly 31,800 people will die of the disease.

Hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and cirrhosis are all linked to liver cancer. You can greatly reduce your risk for liver cancer by preventing or diagnosing and treating these diseases early.

Many liver cancer cases are related to the hepatitis B virus or hepatitis C virus. More than 4 million people are living with chronic hepatitis B or chronic hepatitis C in the United States. Most people don’t know they have the virus.

Other behaviors and conditions that increase risk for getting liver cancer are—

  • Heavy alcohol use.
  • Cirrhosis (scarring of the liver, which can also be caused by hepatitis and alcohol use).
  • Smoking.
  • Obesity.
  • Diabetes.
  • Having hemochromatosis, a condition where the body takes up and stores more iron than it needs.
  • Eating foods that have aflatoxin (a fungus that can grow on foods, such as grains and nuts that have not been stored properly).

In its early stages, liver cancer may not have symptoms that can be seen or felt. However, as the cancer grows larger, people may notice one or more of these common symptoms. It’s important to remember that these symptoms could also be caused by other health conditions. If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.

Liver cancer symptoms may include—

  • Discomfort in the upper abdomen on the right side.
  • A swollen abdomen.
  • A hard lump on the right side just below the rib cage.
  • Pain near the right shoulder blade or in the back.
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
  • Easy bruising or bleeding.
  • Unusual tiredness.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Weight loss for no known reason.

You can lower your risk of getting liver cancer in the following ways—

  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B infection. The Hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for all infants at birth and for adults who may be at increased risk.
  • Get tested for hepatitis C, and get treated if you have it.
  • Avoid drinking too much alcohol.



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