Screening For Liver Cancer

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Liver cancer is the 4th commonest cancer among men in Singapore. The majority of liver cancers (about 85%) are hepatocellular carcinomas.


What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Hepatocellular Carcinomas?

Liver Cancer ScreeningThe Main Risk Factors for developing hepatocelluar carcinoma, otherwise known as HCC, are as follows:

Chronic Hepatitis B infection

Liver cirrhosis (hardening of the liver) - this may be due to chronic hepatitis B, hepatitis C, chronic alcohol consumption etc.

Other Risk Factors include:
• Being male - males are about 4 times more likely to develop HCC compared to females
• Being over 45 years of age
• Being obese
• Having a family history of HCC
• Having a co-infection with Hepatitis C

What Are The Symptoms Of Liver Cancer?

Liver cancer, unfortunately, usually presents with symptoms only in the more advanced stages of the disease. Symptoms may include:

• Abdominal pain
• Abdominal mass
• Loss of appetite
• Loss of weight
• Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)


Who Should Undergo Screening For Liver Cancer?

Those with chronic hepatitis B and liver cirrhosis, as well as those who are deemed to be at higher risk of developing HCC, as listed above, should undergo screening. The optimal age to begin screening has yet to be defined, but studies in our local population do show significant increase in incidence of HCC after 30 years of age in males and 35 years of age in females.

Those who are not of increased risk do not require screening.

How Is Screening Done?

Screening for Hepatocellular Carcinoma is done by checking for serum alpha feto-protein levels and by an ultrasound of the liver. These tests should be done at 6 monthly intervals for high risk groups and 1 yearly intervals for other groups.

Find a Hepatobiliary Surgeon

Further Reading

The article above is meant to provide general information and does not replace a doctor's consultation.
Please see your doctor for professional advice.