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How is primary liver cancer diagnosed?

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In brief: Diagnosis of primary liver cancer

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine you.
He or she may also ask about your medical history.


Your doctor may refer you to a specialist and you're likely to have tests including liver function tests. These tests check whether your liver is working properly by looking at a sample of your blood.


Your doctor may also check for a particular cancer marker - a protein that shows up in higher amounts if you have HCC.

Other tests you may have include the following.
• An ultrasound scan, which uses sound waves to produce an image of your liver.
• A CT scan, which uses X-rays to make a three-dimensional picture of your liver.
• An MRI scan, which uses magnets and radiowaves to produce images of your liver.
• A biopsy, where a small sample of tissue is taken from your liver. This is sent to a laboratory for testing.
• A laparoscopy. This is a minor operation that allows a surgeon to look at your liver by inserting a thin tube containing a light and a camera through a small cut in your abdomen. Your surgeon may take a liver biopsy at the same time.
• A hepatic angiography, which is an X-ray of the blood vessels supplying your liver. This is usually done if there's doubt about your diagnosis after a CT and MRI scan.

In brief: Diagnosis of primary liver cancer

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and examine you.
He or she may also ask about your medical history.


Your doctor may refer you to a specialist and you're likely to have tests including liver function tests. These tests check whether your liver is working properly by looking at a sample of your blood.


Your doctor may also check for a particular cancer marker - a protein that shows up in higher amounts if you have HCC.

Other tests you may have include the following.
• An ultrasound scan, which uses sound waves to produce an image of your liver.
• A CT scan, which uses X-rays to make a three-dimensional picture of your liver.
• An MRI scan, which uses magnets and radiowaves to produce images of your liver.
• A biopsy, where a small sample of tissue is taken from your liver. This is sent to a laboratory for testing.
• A laparoscopy. This is a minor operation that allows a surgeon to look at your liver by inserting a thin tube containing a light and a camera through a small cut in your abdomen. Your surgeon may take a liver biopsy at the same time.
• A hepatic angiography, which is an X-ray of the blood vessels supplying your liver. This is usually done if there's doubt about your diagnosis after a CT and MRI scan.
Quality HealthCare Team
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Dr. Mark Pack
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