Diagnosing Liver Cancer

Support Throughout the Diagnostic Process

Our physicians, nurses and support staff are here to advise you, listen to you and calm your fears. Your physicians will explain your diagnosis and compassionately offer suggestions for treatment and care. They’re here for you.

Also available for counsel, support and guidance are nurse coordinators, oncology social workers and a pastoral team. They’ll help you navigate through the system and provide additional assistance, including:

  • Social support
  • Spiritual guidance
  • Emotional support
  • Practical advice
  • Tips on coping

Call on them. They’re here for you.

Note: This web content focuses on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of primary liver cancer.

The diagnosis and treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a complex process, relying on the expertise, skill and collaboration of a diverse group of specialists and subspecialists. At Scott & White Healthcare, you’ll have a multidisciplinary team of physicians working together to evaluate your HCC and to determine whether it has spread.

At Scott & White, our team of nationally recognized diagnostic radiologists and surgical oncologists is specially trained in the diagnosis of primary liver tumors. They receive regular training in the most up-to-date procedures available. They’re on the forefront of diagnostic advancements.

Our pathology services are outstanding, too. Our board-certified pathologists are national experts at identifying and classifying tumors, providing key information to your care team that will assist them in making treatment decisions.

Liver Cancer Diagnostic Services

At Scott & White Healthcare, we use the most advanced diagnostic equipment available to detect, identify and evaluate your HCC tumors early, when cure is most likely.

If your physician suspects you may have HCC, he or she may recommend one or more of the following tests.

Physical and Laboratory Tests

  • Physical examination and history. Your physician may begin with a thorough physical exam and medical history.
  • Blood and tumor marker tests. Your physician may order one or more blood tests during and after your treatment. Your physician may also order tumor marker tests. A tumor marker is a substance that may be found in a tumor or released from a tumor into your blood or other body fluids. A high level of a tumor marker may note the presence of a certain type of cancer.
  • Liver function tests. This test measures certain substances in your blood produced by your liver. Elevated levels may indicate primary liver cancer.
  • Blood chemistry test. This test examines your blood for certain substances made by your body. Abnormal amounts of these substances may indicate primary liver cancer.
  • Liver biopsy. A biopsy is the best way to confirm the presence of liver cancer. Your physician may order a biopsy if cancer is suspected based on the results of other diagnostic tests. In this procedure, a radiologist, guided by ultrasound or CT, will place a needle through your skin into your liver tumor, removing a small sample of liver tissue. The tissue sample will be sent to the laboratory for evaluation by a pathologist.
  • Kidney function tests
  • Alpha fetoprotein
  • Hepatitis viral panel
  • Complete blood count (CBC)

Imaging Studies

  • Transabdominal ultrasound. An ultrasound is an imaging test that uses sound waves to create an image of your internal organs. Your physician will pass the ultrasound transducer across your abdomen. The sound waves bounce off your liver; a computer rearranges the waves into a picture that can reveal the presence of a mass and whether it’s sold or filled with fluid.
  • Abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan
  • Positron emission tomography (PET) scan
  • Angiography
  • Bone scan

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