Liver Cancer

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Liver cancer screening is recommended for patients with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. The current screening recommendation from the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases is to get a liver ultrasound every 6 months.

There are no screening recommendations for the general population. However, routine liver cancer screenings are advised.

Patients with chronic liver disease and cirrhosis are typically managed and screened by the Digestive Health Center.

  • Patients with a known diagnosis of primary colorectal or neuroendocrine cancer should have consistent monitoring for development of metastases to their liver.
  • Patients with primary colorectal or neuroendocrine cancer with metastases to the liver are followed by their oncologist or surgeon.

Liver Cancer Risk

Factors that may increase you chance of liver cancer include:

  • Male gender
  • Age of 40 years and older
  • Infection with hepatitis B or hepatitis C virus
  • Scar tissue in the liver, also known as cirrhosis
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Malnutrition
  • Obesity
  • Exposure to an infectious agent, such as a liver fluke, which are found in southern Pacific countries
  • Hemochromatosis —abnormal collection of iron in body tissues
  • Hereditary metabolic disorders such as alpha-antitrypsin (AAT) deficiency and tyrosinemia
  • Exposure to certain chemicals:
    • Aflatoxin
    • Vinyl chloride and thorium dioxide
    • Anabolic steroids
    • Arsenic


Liver cancer can cause the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain and swelling
  • Nausea
  • Dark urine
  • Excessive itchiness of the skin
  • Confusion and increased sleepiness
  • Yellowing of the skin and/or the whites of the eye


Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Blood tests
  • Biopsy

Your doctor may need to view images of your bodily structures. This can be done with:

  • X-ray
  • Angiogram
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Laparoscopy


Surgery is the only curative procedure in liver cancer. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can reduce symptoms associated with the cancer. They are not considered curative by themselves.

  • Surgery
  • Cryosurgery
  • Ethanol ablation
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy
  • Sorafenib (Nexavar)
  • Biological therapy


To reduce your risk of getting liver cancer:

  • If you use needles to inject medication or drugs, always use a clean needle. Do not share needles with anyone.
  • Use condoms when having sexual intercourse if you or your partner is not in a monogamous relationship or if you don't know if your partner has hepatitis.
  • Have children vaccinated against hepatitis B.


Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.