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About Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC)

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of primary liver cancer (a type of cancer that starts in the liver). HCC begins in the main type of liver cell, a hepatocyte. It is most common in people with chronic liver diseases such as cirrhosis caused by hepatitis B or hepatitis C.

    Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is treated at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center's (DF/BWCC) Liver Cancer Center.

    Risk factors for Hepatocellular Carcinoma

    Anything that increases your risk of getting a disease is called a risk factor. Having a risk factor does not mean that you will get cancer; not having risk factors doesn't mean that you will not get cancer. People who think they may be at risk should discuss this with their doctor.

    Risk factors for hepatocellular carcinoma include:

    • Having chronic hepatitis B (HBV) or chronic hepatitis C (HCV). The risk is even higher for people with both HBV and HCV, or people who have the hepatitis virus along with other risk factors listed below.
    • Cirrhosis, a disease where healthy liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue which blocks the flow of blood through the liver and keeps it from working as it should. Chronic alcoholism and chronic hepatitis infections are common causes of cirrhosis.
    • Heavy alcohol use.
    • Aflatoxin B1, poison from a fungus that can grow on foods.
    • Cigarette smoking.

    Signs and Symptoms of Hepatocellular Carcinoma

    Many patients do not have symptoms in the beginning stages of liver cancer. However, when they do appear, the following signs and symptoms may be present. Check with your doctor if you have any of the following:

    • Abdominal pain or tenderness
    • Abdominal swelling or mass
    • Fatigue
    • Fluid in the abdomen
    • Unexplained weight loss
    • Jaundice

    Treatment for Hepatocellular Carcinoma

    The Liver Cancer Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (DF/BWCC) has deep expertise in treating hepatocellular carcinoma. The Center conducts crucial research and clinical trials to learn more about the disease and develop promising new treatments.

    To determine the best treatment plan, our multidisciplinary team will consider the size and location of the hepatocellular carcinoma, the liver’s health and the patient’s overall health. Treatments may include:

    • Surgery
    • Liver transplant surgery
    • Radiation
    • Immunotherapy
    • Biologic therapy
    • Oral agent
    • Clinical trials

    Learn more about the Liver Cancer Center, our approach to patient treatment and care, and our innovative research on hepatocellular carcinoma.