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What is a Hepatoma?

By Felicia Dye
Updated Jan 25, 2024
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Hepatoma is sometimes called hepatocellular carcinoma. Both of these terms refer to a condition typically known as liver cancer. There are two types of liver cancer. Hepatoma is a primary cancer.

Many people do not realize that liver cancers are divided into two types. Metastatic liver cancer involves secondary infection. This means that the cancer began elsewhere and later spread to the liver. Hepatocellular carcinoma is so named because this type of cancer originates directly in the liver cells, making it a primary cancer.

Liver cancer is most commonly found in underdeveloped countries. For example, hepatoma can be widely found in parts of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Most cases occur in individuals who are between the ages of 40 and 60. It is generally fatal: many people do not live longer than a year after being diagnosed with the condition.

The exact causes of this type of cancer are not known. It has been noted, however, that where chronic hepatitis B and C are found, there is also generally found a large number of hepatoma cases. It is believed that liver scarring – known as cirrhosis – caused by hepatitis B and C along with a family history of liver cancer can increase a person’s chances of developing hepatoma.

A strong association has also been found between this type of liver cancer and life-long hepatitis B infection. Those who acquire hepatitis B later in life may develop liver cancer. It is less likely, however, than for those who have had the virus their entire lifetime.

Liver cancer is often signaled by a physical examination. A physician can often feel that a person’s liver is swollen or hard. When the liver is pressed, the sufferer will likely experience pain. In these instances, a blood test, CT scan, and liver biopsy commonly follow.

In many cases when hepatoma is discovered, it has already progressed beyond the point where an operation is possible. It is widely believed that the best option for those with hepatoma is to have a liver transplant. In some cases, however, when a single, small tumor is found, surgical removal of the tumor is suggested. Other treatment techniques involve removing a lobe of the liver. These methods are often done for pain relief and to slow the progression of the disease but are not actual cures.

The rate of progression and the symptoms of hepatoma can vary. Many people who have this type of liver cancer suffer from abdominal pain and swelling. This pain may spread to the back. Sufferers may lose their appetite or begin to lose weight without explanation. Other symptoms include fatigue, fever, and jaundice.

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