Health Information and Tools >  Cirrhosis – What is liver cancer?
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The medical term for liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma or HCC.

But most people just call it liver cancer.

It's an important type of cancer for people with cirrhosis to know about.

Having cirrhosis is the most common risk factor for liver cancer.

It starts as a small tumour in the liver that can grow over time.

Not everyone with cirrhosis gets liver cancer, but it happens to a small number of people.

Having cirrhosis is the most common risk factor for liver cancer.

It starts as a small tumour in the liver that can grow over time.

Not everyone with cirrhosis gets liver cancer, but it happens to a small number of people.

If we catch liver cancer at an early stage, when a tumour is small, it's easier to treat.

But at this early stage, it usually doesn't cause symptoms.

This means people can get liver cancer and not know it right away.

To help find liver cancer early, you might have an imaging test, or scan, to take pictures of your liver every 6 months.

This is called screening.

Screening for liver cancer in people with cirrhosis is usually done with an ultrasound scan.

You may also have a special blood test to check for a tumour marker called alfa-fetoprotein or AFP.

Remember, the earlier we can find liver cancer, the easier it is to treat.

So it's really important to go to your ultrasound and blood test appointments.

Sometimes an ultrasound doesn't show a clear enough picture of your liver.

Or it might show spots that look like cancer.

If this happens, you'll likely need another type of scan that uses contrast.

Contrast is a dye that helps give better pictures of inside your body.

It lets your healthcare team see liver tumours more easily.

You may get contrast dye for an ultrasound, MRI [magnetic resonance imaging], or CT [computed tomography] scan.

In most cases, you don't need a biopsy to diagnose liver cancer.

A biopsy is a procedure that removes tissue from your liver to be checked under a microscope. 

If you've been diagnosed with liver cancer, you'll wonder what happens next.

There are several treatment options.

Your healthcare team will help you decide the best treatment.

They'll look at how well your liver is working, any other health conditions you have, where the tumour is in your liver, and the size of the tumour.

Surgery is one type of treatment for liver cancer.

There are 2 types.

You may be offered surgery to remove a part of your liver where the tumour is.

This is called a liver resection.

Or, you might be offered a liver transplant.

This removes all of your liver and replaces it with one from a donor.

There are also other treatments for liver cancer.

These include ablation, embolization, and radiation therapy.

Just like surgery, these treatments have risks and benefits so they may not be right for everyone.

You can learn more about these procedures in the “Cirrhosis and Liver Cancer" video series.

Your healthcare team will work with you to make sure you get the best care to help manage your disease.

Getting a diagnosis of liver cancer can leave you with many thoughts and feelings.

Remember, your healthcare team is here to support you.

Find out more about liver cancer and treatment options at cirrhosiscare.ca and Myhealth.Alberta.ca.​