Screening for cancer is examination (or testing) of people for early stages in the development of cancer even though they have no symptoms. Scientists have studied patterns of cancer in the population to learn which people are more likely to get certain types of cancer. They have also studied what things around us and what things we do in our lives may cause cancer. This information sometimes helps doctors recommend who should be screened for certain types of cancer, what types of screening tests people should have, and how often these tests should be done. Not all screening tests are helpful, and most have risks such as serious internal bleeding from the liver due to a biopsy for an abnormal screening test. For this reason, scientists at the National Cancer Institute are studying many screening tests to find out how useful they are and to determine the relative benefits and harms.
If your doctor suggests certain cancer screening tests as part of your health care plan, this does not mean he or she thinks you have cancer. Screening tests are done when you have no symptoms. Since decisions about screening can be difficult, you may want to discuss them with your doctor and ask questions about the potential benefits and risks of screening tests and whether they have been proven to decrease the risk of dying from cancer.
If your doctor suspects that you may have cancer, he or she will order certain tests to see whether you do. These are called diagnostic tests. Some tests are used for diagnostic purposes, but are not suitable for screening people who have no symptoms.
The purposes of this summary on hepatocellular cancer screening are to:
You can talk to your doctor or health care professional about cancer screening and whether it would be likely to help you.
Hepatocellular cancer is cancer that arises in the liver rather than cancer that has spread to the liver from another organ in the body. The liver is one of the largest organs in the body, filling the upper right side of the abdomen and protected by the rib cage. The liver has many functions. It has an important role in converting food into energy and in filtering and storing blood.
Hepatocellular cancer is not a common cancer in the United States, however it is the fourth most common cancer in the world.
Anything that increases a person’s chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor. Some of these risk factors for hepatocellular cancer are as follows:
Sex: In the United States, men, especially Chinese American men, have a greater risk of developing hepatocellular cancer.
Hepatitis: Chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C increase a person’s risk of developing hepatocellular cancer. The risk is even greater when a person is infected with both hepatitis B and hepatitis C.
Cirrhosis: People who have cirrhosis are at risk of developing hepatocellular cancer.
Metabolism Disorders: Some metabolism disorders may also increase the risk of hepatocellular cancer. An example is excess accumulation of iron in the liver (hemochromatosis).
A routine effective screening test for hepatocellular cancer has not yet been developed. Screening trials using ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and blood tests are ongoing.
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Links to the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms were added to this summary.
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