Awareness and Prevention
Liver cancer is treatable and sometimes even curable when it’s caught early, so it’s important to be aware of your risk and to recognize any symptoms that could be associated with the disease.
If you are at high risk for liver cancer because of cirrhosis, we do regular screenings to catch any signs of cancer as early as possible. UT Southwestern is also involved in national projects to improve screening through early detection biomarkers.
There are several risk factors for liver cancer:
- This condition causes scar tissue to form in your liver, which significantly increases your chances of developing liver cancer. More than 80 percent of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) patients in the United States have cirrhosis and HCC is a leading cause of death in patients with cirrhosis.
- Chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections
- These increase the risk of liver cancer because they often lead to cirrhosis of the liver, although hepatitis B can lead to liver cancer without cirrhosis. These are currently the most common causes of HCC although antiviral treatment can reduce the risk of developing HCC.
- Excessive alcohol use
- Consuming more than a moderate amount of alcohol daily over many years can lead to irreversible liver damage and increase your risk of liver cancer.
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), obesity, and diabetes
- These conditions are all related to fat being deposited in the liver, increasing your risk of liver cancer. NAFLD is now the most common liver disease in the United States, with nearly one-third of Americans having a component of NAFLD.
- Certain inherited liver diseases
- Genetic hemochromatosis, tyrosinemia, alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, porphyria cutanea tarda, glycogen storage disease, and Wilson’s disease are rare diseases that can damage the liver and increase your liver cancer risk.
Like many cancers, primary liver cancer seldom produces symptoms in its early stages. That’s why it’s often diagnosed once it has already advanced. If symptoms do occur, they may include:
- Pain on the right side in the upper abdomen
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling full
- Unexplained weight loss
- White, chalky stool
If you are at risk for liver cancer and are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.
Prevention and Early Detection
You can lower your risk for developing liver cancer by adopting a healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, weight control, and a healthy diet with limited amounts of alcohol.
It’s also important for liver cancer prevention to avoid infection with the hepatitis B and C viruses. If you have hepatitis B or C, we offer effective therapies that can significantly lower your risk of liver cancer and other liver-related complications.
If you have cirrhosis of the liver, chronic hepatitis B or C, or anything else that makes you at high risk for liver cancer, we can develop a regular screening program for you that will allow us to identify any developing cancer as early as possible while it’s still highly treatable.
In fact, just a few years ago, UT Southwestern’s Amit Singal, M.D. published findings highlighting that liver cancer survival rates could be significantly improved if more people with cirrhosis were screened for tumors using readily available, inexpensive, and noninvasive abdominal ultrasound scans and blood tests.
Schedule an Appointment
To schedule a visit with a liver cancer specialist at UT Southwestern’s facilities in Dallas or to learn more about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.