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Viral Hepatitis and Liver Disease

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Diagnosing liver cancer

for Veterans and the Public

How is liver cancer diagnosed? - Liver Cancer for Patients

A diagnosis of liver cancer can often be made with radiology tests alone, and without a biopsy. If a mass is seen in the liver with ultrasound, then usually either a computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the abdomen will be needed to look at the mass in more detail. If the mass is too small to make a diagnosis, then the health care provider will often recommend repeating the CT or MRI scan every few months to watch for any changes in the mass. Sometimes a blood test reveals high levels of a substance called alpha-fetoprotein, or AFP.

What are the symptoms of liver cancer?

Most people with liver cancer do not have any symptoms early on. Those who do have symptoms often have some pain in the right side of the abdomen, under the ribs, where the liver is located. Or they may have a build-up of fluid in their abdomen, called ascites.