Liver Cancer

Animation of Cancerous liver model.

Colorado’s Premier Liver Cancer Professionals

Discover our Liver Cancer Treatments

Liver cancer has become one of the more common types of cancer to spread throughout the United States in recent years. Rocky Mountain Gastroenterology is dedicated to helping the residents of Colorado identify early signs of liver cancer. Our whole-person care model is designed to support patients throughout their entire treatment journey. That includes assistance managing side effects and maintaining their quality of life. We offer a full range of diagnostic tests and techniques designed to diagnose liver cancer as early as possible to help ensure successful treatment. Rocky Mountain Gastroenterology strives to use aggressive therapies to treat liver cancer. To learn more about our liver cancer treatments, contact us to schedule a screening.

What is Liver Cancer?

As one of the fastest-growing cancer types in the United States, liver cancer is a life-threatening illness. There are two different types of liver cancer, primary and secondary. Primary liver cancer is when the cancer cells start growing in your liver. Secondary liver cancer is when cancer spreads to your liver from other parts of the body. Similar to other types of cancer, our medical team can do more to treat liver cancer during the early stages. Unlike different kinds of cancers, physicians have a good idea of what increases a patient’s chance of developing liver cancer. Our aim is to identify who may be at risk of liver cancer and treating it as early as possible.

Is Liver Cancer Common?

Currently, liver cancer isn’t common, but that’s steadily changing. A recent study estimated that approximately 1% of all individuals in the United States would be diagnosed with some form of liver cancer in their lifetime. There are three kinds of primary liver cancer, Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC), Intrahepatic Cancer (IHC), and Angiosarcoma. HCC and IHC make up about 2% of all new cancer cases and 5% of all new cancer deaths. Here is a more in-depth look at the three different types of liver cancer:

  • Hepatocellular Carcinoma – HCC is the most common form of liver cancer and is represented in nearly all liver cancer cases.
  • Intrahepatic Cancer – IHC is a form of cholangiocarcinoma. This cancer can be found in your liver’s bile duct and represents about 10-20% of all primary liver cancer cases.
  • Angiosarcoma – Angiosarcoma is a rare form of liver cancer, affecting about 1% of all cases. This cancer starts in the lining of blood cells throughout your liver.

How Liver Cancer Affects Your Body

The two most common types of liver cancer, HCC and IHC, affect men more than women and are most commonly diagnosed between ages 55 and 64. It seems to affect individuals of Asian/Pacific Island, Hispanic, American Indian, or Alaskan Indian descent are more likely to develop liver cancer. Your liver is the largest organ in your body, which helps digest food, and is one of the most essential organs. Liver cancer affects your liver’s ability to function correctly. Here are some of the vital tasks your liver performs that are disrupted during liver cancer:

  • Collecting and Filtering Blood Flow from Your Intestines.
  • Processing and Storing Nutrients for Your Intestines to Absorb.
  • Producing Bile
  • Creating Substances That Help Your Blood Clot

What Causes Liver Cancers?

Liver cancer happens when your liver cells develop mutations in their DNA. Your cell’s DNA is the blueprint that provides instructions for every chemical process in your body. For example, we all have genes telling cells to grow, multiply, and die. Oncogenes help cells grow and divide. When our DNA mutates and changes, our cells get new instructions. Studies have shown that cirrhosis related to hepatitis B and hepatitis C account for more than half of all HCC liver cancer cases. When these diseases infect liver cells, they mutate the cell’s DNA, turning them into cancerous cells. It’s also believed that long-term inflammation in your bile ducts increases the risk of developing IHC liver cancer due to the long-term inflammation that causes DNA to turn into abnormal cancerous cells. We’ve provided a list of some additional liver cancer risk factors:

  • Chronic Infection with HBV or HCV – Chronic infections with hepatitis B and hepatitis C increase your risk of liver cancer.
  • Cirrhosis – The progressive and irreversible condition causes scar tissue to form in your liver.
  • Diabetes – Patients with this blood sugar disorder have an increased risk of liver cancer.
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease – Fat accumulation in your liver increases your cancer risk.
  • Exposure to Aflatoxins – These are poisons produced by molds that grow on poorly stored food, such as grains and nuts. Eating these foods increases your risk.
  • Excessive Alcohol Consumption – Consuming large amounts of alcohol daily can lead to irreversible liver damage, which increases your risk of liver cancer.

Review Liver Cancer Symptoms

Unfortunately, you could have early liver cancer without any symptoms. That’s why we recommend scheduling an examination with our team if you know you’re at risk. We’ll perform various tests and monitor your liver to catch cancer as early as possible. While you may not have symptoms, HCC and IHC forms of liver cancer share similar symptoms. If you or a loved one is showing any of these liver cancer symptoms, encourage them to call our office or schedule a consultation as soon as possible:

  • A lump has formed below your rib cage.
  • Unexpected pain on the right side of your abdomen or near your right shoulder.
  • Unexplained weight loss, nausea, or loss of appetite.
  • Dark-colored urine.
  • Abdominal swelling.
  • White and/or chalky stools.

How We Diagnose Liver Cancer

A thorough and accurate liver cancer diagnosis is the first step in creating a comprehensive treatment plan. When you trust Rocky Mountain Gastroenterology, you’ll have a team of liver cancer experts helping you through a variety of tests and tools designed to diagnose liver cancer, and if identified, will develop a personalized treatment plan. During treatment, we’ll utilize a series of tests to track cancer, monitor your response to treatment, and modify your treatment plan if needed. Here are some of the tests we can order to help diagnose liver cancer:

  • Blood Tests – Blood tests can be used to check liver function by checking on liver enzymes, proteins, and other substances that show whether your liver is healthy or damaged. This test is also a way to look for high alfa-fetoprotein, which, if found, may indicate liver cancer.
  • Ultrasound – This provides images of your soft tissue structures, which allows our providers to look for liver tumors.
  • Computed Tomography Scan – Also referred to as a CT scan, this is a particular type of x-ray that produces detailed images of your liver. These images identify tumors, their size, and their location.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging – The MRI produces one very clear image of your body.
  • Angiogram – Angiogram helps our team examine your liver’s blood vessels. For this test to be successful, we’ll inject a dye into an artery, allowing us to track blood vessel activity and look for potential blockages.
  • Biopsy – For a biopsy, we’ll remove a small sample of liver tissue to look for signs of cancer. Biopsies are the most reliable way to confirm a liver cancer diagnosis.

Take These Steps to Help Prevent Liver Cancer

While it’s not possible to completely prevent liver cancer, there are specific steps and lifestyle changes you can implement to lower your chances of getting liver cancer. These changes include regular exercise, controlling your weight, and eating a healthy and balanced diet with limited amounts of alcohol. Here are some additional steps to help prevent liver cancer:

  • Protect Yourself Against Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C – If untreated, hepatitis B can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and even cancer. Vaccines and treatments are available for hepatitis B. There is no vaccine currently for hepatitis C, but there are treatments that can eliminate the virus in most patients.
  • Reduce Your Risk of Cirrhosis – Cirrhosis of the liver dramatically increases your risk of liver cancer. We recommend drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all, and maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Undergo Routine Liver Cancer Screenings – Screenings are a simple way to help prevent liver cancer from worsening. This is especially important for individuals with liver disease or diabetes.

Is Liver Cancer Treatable?

Rocky Mountain Gastroenterology has access to several common treatments for liver cancer. Some treatments include removing parts of your liver, liver transplant, and liver-directed therapies like ablation. It’s not uncommon that the use of different types of chemotherapy, chemoembolization, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy may be needed. Here is a more in-depth look at some of the liver cancer treatments available:

  • Surgery – This is known as a hepatectomy. A partial hepatectomy is a surgery in which part of your liver, where the cancer is found, is removed. The size of the portion that’s removed will change patient by patient.
  • Liver Transplant – In some instances, the only way to remove cancer before it spreads altogether is to undergo a liver transplant.
  • Ablation Therapy – This therapy is designed to remove and eliminate cancerous tissues. There are different forms of ablation therapy, including radiofrequency ablation, microwave therapy, cryoablation, and electroporation therapy. When considering this treatment, we’ll work with you to determine the best form of ablation.

Schedule Your Liver Cancer Screening Today

Unfortunately, most patients don’t know they have liver cancer until it advances to a larger stage, which significantly limits treatment options.  Primary liver cancer is a life-threatening illness, but it’s not one that you must deal with alone. The Rocky Mountain Gastroenterology Association has the skills and experience needed to diagnose liver cancer and provide treatments that cater to your specific needs quickly and efficiently. We highly recommend getting routine liver cancer screenings before the worst happens. Don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a screening.

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