Educational Articles

Hepatoma (Liver Cancer)

The liver is an organ that is located in the right upper region of the abdomen. It weighs approximately 1.5 kg, and measures about 25cm in length. Its many vital functions include production of various essential proteins, lipids, and bile; as well as metabolism of medications and removal of harmful toxins.

Hepatoma, is a cancerous growth that occurs in this liver. It is an extremely common problem worldwide, with over 1 million new cases diagnosed each year.  The incidence of hepatoma is very high in Asia and Africa. Its incidence is also higher in men. The common causes of hepatoma include hepatitis B and C, alcohol, and obesity.



Symptoms of hepatoma are often vague and non-specific. They may include abdominal pain, nausea, weight loss, and yellowing of the skin or jaundice.

The diagnosis of hepatoma often involves radiologic examination such as abdominal sonogram, CT scan, or MRI. The diagnosis of hepatomamay be confirmed by performing a needle biopsy of the suspected lesion in the liver. In addtion, a tumor marker called alpha-feto-protein or AFP may be elevated in patients with cáncer de hígado.


In the treatment of hepatoma, surgery may be curative in a minority of cases in which the tumor is resectable. In non-resectable hepatoma, a new class of medication called Nexavar may provide a survival benefit. Other treatment options in the treatment of hepatoma include radiation therapy, percutaneous ethanol injection, cryosurgery, radiofrequency ablation, and  chemoembolization. In limited cases, liver transplantation may also be a treatment option.

The overall prognosis of patients with hepatoma remains very poor. Only about 15% of hepatoma are surgically resectable at the time of diagnosis. The survival after curative resection is about 50% at 5 year. However, for patients with non-resectable disease, average survival is only about 3-6 months. It is hoped that the ongoing intensive cancer research will be able to provide a better outcome in the very near future.


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