Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
CLICK TO ENLARGE
Diagnosing liver cancer
Tests and procedures used to diagnose liver cancer include:
- Blood tests. Blood tests may reveal liver function abnormalities.
- Imaging tests. Your doctor may recommend imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- Removing a sample of liver tissue for testing. During a liver biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed from your liver and examined under a microscope. Your doctor may insert a thin needle through your skin and into your liver to obtain a tissue sample. Liver biopsy carries a risk of bleeding, bruising and infection.
Determining the extent of the liver cancer
Once liver cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will work to determine the extent (stage) of the cancer. Staging tests help determine the size and location of cancer and whether it has spread. Imaging tests used to stage liver cancer include CT, MRI, chest X-ray and bone scan.
There are different methods of staging liver cancer. One method uses Roman numerals I through IV, and another uses letters A through D. Your doctor uses your cancer's stage to determine your treatment options and your prognosis. Stage IV and stage D indicates the most advanced liver cancer with the worst prognosis.
- Management of hepatocellular carcinoma: An update. Alexandria, Va.: American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases. http://www.aasld.org/practiceguidelines/Documents/Bookmarked%20Practice%20Guidelines/HCCUpdate2010.pdf. Accessed May 20, 2011.
- What you need to know about liver cancer. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/liver/allpages/print. Accessed May 20, 2011.
- Weber S, et al. Liver and bile duct cancer. In: Abeloff MD, et al. Abeloff's Clinical Oncology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier; 2008:1569.
- Hepatobiliary cancer. Fort Washington, Pa.: National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/f_guidelines.asp. Accessed May 20, 2011.
- Hepatitis B FAQs for the public. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/B/bFAQ.htm. Accessed May 20, 2011.
- Hepatitis C FAQs for the public. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/C/cFAQ.htm. Accessed May 20, 2011.
- Moynihan TJ (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 7, 2011.
- Cirrhosis. National Institute for Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases. http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/cirrhosis/. Accessed June 8, 2011.