Hepatocarcinoma is a form of cancer that begins in the liver cells. It is also known as hepatocellular carcinoma or primary liver cancer. There are generally two types of liver cancer, primary and secondary. Primary liver cancer starts in the liver, and secondary liver cancer originates from another area and spreads to the liver. When someone is talking about hepatocarcinoma, he or she is talking about primary liver cancer.
Usually, hepatocarcinoma is more common in males and occurs in those age 50 years or older. The majority of cases are found in African countries that are located south of the Sahara as well as in Southeast Asia. This is because of the prevalence of hepatocarcinoma risk factors in these individuals and countries.
Some of the main risk factors associated with liver cancer are hepatitis B, hepatitis C, excessive alcohol use, diabetes and obesity. In addition, in most cases, cirrhosis, or scarring of the liver, is the cause of liver cancer. Cirrhosis can be caused by many things, including hepatitis B, hepatitis C and alcohol abuse.
Symptoms of hepatocarcinoma can vary. They include abdominal pain and swelling, weight loss, weakness, jaundice and fever. Symptoms often do not occur until later in development, though, so it is not unusual for liver cancer to go unnoticed until it is well into its advanced stage.
Diagnosis of liver cancer involves tests such as physical exams, blood tests, a computed tomography (CT) scan, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and an ultrasound. The liver and nearby organs are checked for abnormalities. Though it is unusual for liver cancer diagnosis, a biopsy also might be done. After diagnosis, an individual can seek a second opinion.
If liver cancer is diagnosed, the doctor might need to ascertain what stage the cancer is in. He or she also might need to determine whether it has spread to other areas of the body. To accomplish this, additional tests are performed including, a CT scan, a bone scan and a positron emission tomography (PET) scan.
Hepatocarcinoma treatment depends on the extent of the cancer. Treatment options include surgery, ablation, embolization and therapy. Surgery involves either tumor removal or liver transplant. Three types of therapy used for liver cancer treatment are targeted therapy, radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
It is possible for one to reduce the risk of developing hepatocarcinoma. For example, if an individual stays away from too much alcohol intake or receives a hepatitis B vaccination as a child, the risks of developing liver cancer are reduced. If hepatocarcinoma is left untreated or if it cannot be entirely removed, the average survival rate is three to six months.