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Liver Cancer Diagnosis

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Liver cancer diagnosis is a definitive way of staging liver cancer. Liver cancer diagnosis helps in determination of the fact whether a person is suffering from liver cancer or not. Liver cancer diagnosis answers to questions like:

  • How was the cancer caused
  • What is the type of liver cancer such as primary or secondary or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and cholangiocarcinoma
  • What is nature, extent and stages of the liver cancer
  • What is the current and potential damage to the liver
  • What treatments of liver cancer are possible
  • What are the complications and chances of survival and return to normal life after treatment

Liver cancer diagnosis has improved a lot over the years. Since liver is made up of softer tissues conventional X-rays cannot be used for diagnosis of liver cancer. Also liver is an organ which lies quite deep in the body structure, making its observation difficult. It may not be easy to observe or find tumors and suspected mass of tissues easily. This makes it necessary to undergo absolutely thorough diagnostic procedures to trace liver cancer.

Liver cancer shows symptoms like jaundice, yellow urination, discoloration or blackening of stools and yellowing of eyes or skin. It can also show symptoms like abdominal pain or masses or trouble in digestion accompanied by heavy weight loss. Looking at such symptoms your doctor may advise you to undertake liver cancer diagnostics, especially if you belong to the high risk group of people who consume alcohol or are of certain ages.

Liver cancer diagnostics include following examinations

Physical Examination: Based on the symptoms, your doctor will look for outwards signs such as abdominal pain, yellowing of eyes and skin and presence of any surface tumors.

X-Rays and MRI: Conventional X-rays are not accurate to predict the type and extent of liver cancer. Barium sallow tests and fluoroscopic tests are carried out to observe the softer tissues of the liver. Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography (PTC) is an X-raying technique using contrast materials. A combination of endoscopy and fluoroscopy is used known as Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). It can show live X-Ray images of the liver.

Magnetic resonance imaging is preferred over x-rays to observe the liver, biliary and pancreatic ducts. A form of MRI known as Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) was developed around 1991. It is widely used to describe the depth, location, extent and size of the tumors.Particles of iron oxides are used to obtain images of the liver in the MRI scan. MRI scan is sufficiently accurate and reliable.

Blood, Urine and Stools Tests: Blood tests cannot identify liver cancer, however, blood presence in urine or stools, traces of bilirubin may indicate jaundice as well as probability of some disorder that's is certainly affecting the abdomen. The doctors may advise further tests such as MRI and X-Rays.

CT scan: Computerized tomography scan involves imaging using contrast materials. Imaging is done before, immediately after a definite delay. This helps in detection of liver cancer tumors.

Biopsy: Liver biopsy is done to obtain small tissue of the liver for further study. The biopsy can be done endoscopically or surgically. In both cases, a small opening is made around the abdomen. A tissue of the liver is removed using a small needle. During liver cancer operation, a surgeon or trained oncologist will explore the liver for visual signs of tumors and their location. The sample tissue is also observed under a microscope.

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS): It is a relatively new technique which uses both endoscopy and ultrasounds. It can be combined with Doppler Imaging to obtain accurate understanding of the tumor.

Thus, based on liver cancer diagnosis an exact understanding of the liver cancer is obtained. Liver cancer diagnosis thus helps in staging the liver cancer.

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