Hepatocellular Carcinoma

A hepatocellular carcinoma, also known as hepatoma, is a cancer that starts in the liver. It is the most common type of cancer originating in the liver.


The first signs of the disease may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Weight loss
  • Large mass that can be felt in the upper right section of the abdomen

People who have had cirrhosis for a long time may also experience:

  • Sudden feeling of illness
  • Fever
  • Sudden abdominal pain and shock (very low blood pressure) caused by a rupture or bleeding of the tumor

Causes and Risk Factors

Risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma include:

  • Long-standing cases of cirrhosis (severe scarring of the liver)
  • Chronic infection with hepatitis B
  • Chronic infection with hepatitis C
  • Certain food fungi


At first, symptoms may not offer clues that the disease is present. When the person has had cirrhosis for a long time and a tumor can be felt in the abdomen, the doctor will suspect hepatocellular carcinoma.

Other ways to detect the disease include:

  • Ultrasound
  • Computed tomography (CT) scans
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)scans
  • Liver biopsy. For this, a small sample of tissue is taken for examination under a microscope.


The survival rate for people with hepatocellular carcinoma is poor. This is because the tumor is usually discovered at a later stage.

Treatment options include:

  • Surgery, if the tumor is small
  • Chemotherapy. This can slow the growth of the tumor but not cure the cancer