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Liver Cancer Prevention

Liver Cancer Screening

Cancer screening exams are important medical tests done when you’re at risk but don’t have symptoms. They help find cancer at its earliest stage, when the chances for successful treatment are best.

Unfortunately, screening tests have not been shown to improve liver cancer outcomes. In addition, tumors often are difficult to find during physical exams and may not produce symptoms until they are advanced. This means liver cancer often is diagnosed when it advanced.

At MD Anderson, we advise a proactive approach for people at high risk of liver cancer. We suggest screening every six months with an alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) blood test and ultrasound of the liver. If abnormalities are found, we follow up with a CT or CAT (computed axial tomography) scan.

Liver Cancer Risk Factors

Anything that increases your chance of getting liver cancer is a risk factor. These include:

  • History of hepatitis B or C virus
  • Cirrhosis, which develops when liver cells are damaged and replaced with scar tissue. Cirrhosis may be caused by:
    • Alcohol abuse
    • Certain drugs, chemicals or viruses
    • Non-alcoholic fatty liver, which causes too much iron in the liver
    •  Hemachromatosis, which results in too much iron in the liver
    • Other rare conditions
  • Aflatoxins: Substances produced by fungus that contaminates peanuts, wheat, soybeans, corn and rice
  • Age: Liver cancer is found most often in people over 60 years old
  • Race/ethnicity: In the United States, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have the highest rates of liver cancer, followed by American Indians/Alaska Natives and Hispanics/Latinos, African Americans and whites. This is related to the incidence of hepatitis in each group.
  • Exposure to vinyl chloride and thorium dioxide
  • Anabolic steroids
  • Arsenic in drinking water from wells

Not everyone with risk factors gets liver cancer. However, if you have risk factors, it’s a good idea to discuss them with your doctor.

Why Choose MD Anderson?

  • Advanced liver cancer treatment strategies, including targeted therapies, innovative chemotherapies and chemoembolization
  • Team approach to liver cancer care
  • Skilled surgeons with extraordinary experience and expertise
  • Precise liver cancer diagnostic methods, including triple-phase CT scan
  • Wide range of research studies (clinical trials) of new treatments

Liver Cancer Knowledge Center

Treatment at MD Anderson

Liver cancer is treated in our:

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Liver Cancer Prevention

Research shows that many cancers can be prevented. Visit the Prevention section of our website to find out steps you can take to avoid cancer.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center