Liver Cancer: Risk Factors, Screenings and More

Each year in the United States, about 36,000 Americans are diagnosed with liver cancer.

What is liver cancer?

When cancer starts in the liver, it is called liver cancer.

Located in the upper right side of the abdominal area, just under the lower ribs is the liver. The liver helps maintain the body’s chemical levels in the blood and releases a product called bile, a fluid that helps in digestion. Bile breaks down fats into fatty acids which can be taken into the body by the digestive tract.

Signs and Symptoms of Liver Cancer

Surgical Oncologist Dr. David Roife with Premier Surgical at Fort Sanders Regional explains that liver cancer in the early stages often does not show any signs or symptoms. “Unfortunately, liver cancer is another one of those diseases that kind of grows silently and it’s rare to have any kind of signs and symptoms. Many times, liver tumors are caught incidentally while getting a scan for something else.”

Dr. Roife notes, “More advanced liver tumors may cause symptoms like abdominal pain in the upper abdomen, fluid in the belly, which may be a result of end-stage liver disease, as well as jaundice, which is yellowing of the eyes and skin.”

What are the Risk Factors for Liver Cancer?

Dr. Roife lists the following risk factors of liver cancer:

• A history of Hepatitis B or C infections
• Cirrhosis diagnosis (End-stage liver disease)
• Fatty Liver Disease

Early Detection is Key

Dr. Roife says, “Liver cancer tumors are typically aggressive, and they can grow and spread to other parts of the body. What makes these cancers unique is a lot of the prognosis depends on the health of the individual patient and the state of the rest of their liver. For example, a liver tumor in a patient with a healthy liver will have a much better prognosis than a patient with the same kind of tumor with an unhealthy liver that wouldn’t be able to tolerate any kind of surgical treatment.”

Patients who experience the risk factors listed above must get screened for liver cancer.

Dr. Roife explains, “It is recommended for people with cirrhosis to undergo a screening every six months. The screening will involve an ultrasound, and some blood tests. A screening has been the best way to catch these kinds of diseases early and to improve the prognosis and decrease deaths caused by liver cancer.”

How is Liver Cancer Treated?

The treatment of liver cancer takes a multidisciplinary team approach because there are a multitude of treatments available. Premier Surgical Associates of Knoxville, Cleveland, and Johnson City, TN, have surgeons who have years of experience in diagnosing and treating liver cancer.

To request an appointment with a physician at one of our Premier Surgical, visit