One page fact sheet from ASCO on liver cancer, including Qs to ask your doctor.

One page fact sheet from ASCO on liver cancer, including Qs to ask your doctor.

What is liver cancer?
Cancer begins when healthy cells change and grow
uncontrollably, forming a mass called a tumor. A
tumor can be cancerous or benign. A cancerous
tumor can grow and spread to other parts of the
body. A benign tumor can grow but will not spread.
Primary liver cancer is cancer that begins in the liver.
About 80% of primary liver cancer is hepatocellular
carcinoma (HCC). Other subtypes of primary liver cancer
include bile duct cancer and angiosarcoma, a cancer of
the blood vessels in the liver.

What is the function of the liver?
The liver is the largest internal organ in the body and
is essential for digesting food. The liver performs many
other functions, including collecting and filtering blood
from the intestines, removing toxic wastes from the body,
storing energy, and making proteins. No one can survive
without a liver.

What does stage mean?
The stage is a way of describing where the cancer is located, if or where it has spread, and whether it is affecting other parts of the body.
Doctors also consider liver function when determining the cancer’s stage. There are four stages for HCC: very early stage, early stage,
intermediate stage, and advanced stage. More information about these stages can be found at

How is liver cancer treated?
The treatment of HCC depends on the size and location of the tumor, whether the cancer has spread, whether the tumor can be removed with
surgery, and the person’s overall health. Treatment also depends on liver function, as people who develop liver cancer may have liver damage
related to infection (viral hepatitis), exposure to chemicals (alcohol and some industrial solvents), or fat buildup caused by obesity. Surgery to
remove the tumor is likely to be the most successful treatment option, particularly for a tumor smaller than 5 centimeters (about 2 inches).
Other options to eliminate a tumor are liver transplantation; thermal ablation, which uses heat to destroy cancer cells; and percutaneous
ethanol injection, which uses alcohol injected directly into the liver tumor to destroy cancer cells. Radiation therapy, targeted therapy, and
injecting chemotherapy into the liver, called chemoembolization, may also be used to treat HCC. When making treatment decisions, people
may also consider a clinical trial; talk with your doctor about all treatment options and the goals of each treatment. The side effects of
liver cancer treatment can often be prevented or managed with the help of your health care team. This is called palliative care and is an
important part of the overall treatment plan.

How can I cope with liver cancer?
Absorbing the news of a cancer diagnosis and communicating with your health care team are key parts of the coping process. Seeking
support, organizing your health information, making sure all of your questions are answered, and participating in the decision-making
process are other steps. Talk with your health care team about any concerns. Understanding your emotions and those of people
close to you can be helpful in managing the diagnosis, treatment, and healing process.