Liver cancer

An elderly couple is talking to each other in a hospital room.

Liver cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the liver. The most common form of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma or cancer (HCC).


Liver cancer is much more common in countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia than in the US. More than 800,000 people are diagnosed with this cancer each year throughout the world. Liver cancer is also a leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, accounting for more than 782,000 deaths each year1.


Based on gender, men have a higher risk of developing liver cancer than women.


Liver cancer causes death more often than many other tumors, and patients are usually diagnosed with late-stage disease. It is the third leading cause of cancer-related death globally1.


The most common form of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma or cancer (HCC). HCC accounts for about 90% of the total liver cancer burden worldwide.


Prevention and Detection

In eight out of ten people who develop HCC, the malignant change in the cells is preceded by chronic hepatitis B. Hepatitis C is also regarded as a potential precursor of a tumor, as is cirrhosis of the liver, a pathological change in the liver tissue involving shrinkage. There are additional risk factors that increase the likelihood of a tumor developing, such as excessive alcohol consumption and obesity.


The early detection of HCC is crucial for successful treatment, because the tumor can be surgically removed in early stage disease. In many cases, diagnoses are made when the disease has progressed past the point of surgical resection. According to an estimate by the German Cancer Society, 70% of HCC diagnoses are made in patients with unresectable disease. Symptoms usually do not occur until the disease has reached an advanced stage – and to some extent symptoms are relatively non-specific. They include loss of appetite and nausea, as well as pressure and pain in the upper abdomen.


A blood test and an ultrasound examination can detect HCC, and computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) can then confirm a possible diagnosis.


Sorafenib combats tumor growth in two ways: by inhibiting the division of cancer cells and by blocking the supply of blood to the tumor. The drug is now approved for the treatment of advanced HCC in more than 100 countries around the world.


Until 2007, there were no approved systemic therapies to delay liver cancer progression. In 2007, Bayer and the U.S. biotechnology company Onyx Pharmaceuticals received marketing authorization for the first drug to show an improvement in overall survival in HCC patients. Despite numerous additional clinical trials, until now no other drug has been able to show an overall survival benefit in patients with HCC.


References :
1.    World Health Organization: GLOBOCAN 2018
2. cancer/about/what-is-liver-cancer.html
3. care/cancer/liver-cancer/

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