Symptoms & Risks

What is hepatocellular liver cancer or HCC?

The more common type of cancer that starts in the liver is known as hepatocellular cancer or HCC. HCC starts in the true liver cell or hepatocyte.  Usually, when a health care professional refers to a liver cancer they are talking about HCC.

How common is hepatocellular liver cancer?

Liver cancer is on the rise, with about 39,230 new cases expected this year. Liver cancer or HCC almost always affects people who have liver diseases such as cirrhosis or hepatitis. These health problems are on the rise in the U.S., which leads to more HCC. In other countries, hepatitis and liver cancer are much more common.

What are the risk factors for hepatocellular liver cancer?

People who have hepatitis B, hepatitis C and cirrhosis are at higher risk for liver cancer. Hepatitis is inflammation of the liver, most often caused by viruses. Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver from injury or disease. The most common causes of cirrhosis are hepatitis and chronic alcoholism.

Among people who have hepatitis C, almost 20 percent will develop liver cancer in 15 to 20 years. Doctors will monitor people with hepatitis C with lab tests and imaging of the liver to check for cancer. Less common risk factors include:

  • Exposure to certain chemicals
  • Inflammation
  • Chronic liver infections

What are the symptoms of liver cancer?

Like many cancers, the signs and symptoms of liver cancer often do not appear until the disease has advanced. Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • Weight-loss 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling very full after a small meal
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • An enlarged liver, felt as a mass under the ribs on the right side
  • An enlarged spleen, felt as a mass under the ribs on the left side 
  • Pain in the abdomen or near the right shoulder blade
  • Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Itching
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor