About Liver Cancer

Each year in the United States, about 15,000 men and 6,000 women are told they have primary liver cancer or bile duct cancer (cancers that begin in the liver), according to the National Institutes of Health. Most are over 64 years old. Although liver cancer is about twice as common in men as in women, overall it is becoming more prevalent.  

It is common for cancer in the liver to have spread—metastasized—from other organs of the body, but this page will explain primary liver cancer.

The primary risk factors for liver cancer are chronic hepatitis B or C virus infection and cirrhosis of the liver, or a family history of the disease. Liver cancer may be a symptomless disease or may manifest itself in the form of symptoms such as fatigue, lack of appetite, nausea and vomiting and jaundice.  If you experience persistent possible symptoms, talk to your physician who may suggest some diagnostic testing. The risk factors for bile duct cancer are less well understood but may include gallstones, auto-immune disorders and chronic infections of the biliary system. Symptoms are very similar to those described for primary liver cancer.

Liver Cancer Screening & Diagnosis

In diagnosing liver cancer, your doctor will perform a physical exam, feeling your abdomen to check your liver and other nearby organs for any lumps or an abnormal buildup of fluid. Your physician may also check for signs of jaundice (a yellow coloring of the skin or eyes). Further screenings may include blood tests, CT scans, MRI or ultrasounds.

If a diagnosis of liver cancer is made, a physician will determine the severity or stage of the cancer, including whether it has spread to other areas of the body. Each cancer type has its own classification system.

Multispecialty Team

NorthShore University HealthSystem physicians and the team at the Kellogg Cancer Center work collaboratively and are dedicated to putting patients and families at the center of a healthcare experience that delivers compassionate, quality care.

Every week, our multidisciplinary team meets to discuss each patient’s case in detail and to design a personalized treatment plan. Your team may include your medical oncologist, surgeon, radiation oncologist, genetics counselor, pathologist, nutritionist, gastroenterologist, interventional radiologist, and researchers focused on you. This meeting of the minds provides each patient with an individualized care plant to create the path for the most successful outcome. Our approach emphasizes open communication, collaborating with each other personally and through one of the most advanced electronic medical records systems in the country.

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