National Cancer Institute


Posted Date: Jun 21, 2005

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Overview of Screening

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What is screening?

Screening for cancer is examination (or testing) of people for early stages in the development of cancer even though they have no symptoms. Scientists have studied patterns of cancer in the population to learn which people are more likely to get certain types of cancer. They have also studied what things around us and what things we do in our lives may cause cancer. This information sometimes helps doctors recommend who should be screened for certain types of cancer, what types of screening tests people should have, and how often these tests should be done. Not all screening tests are helpful, and most have risks such as serious internal bleeding from the liver due to a biopsy for an abnormal screening test. For this reason, scientists at the National Cancer Institute are studying many screening tests to find out how useful they are and to determine the relative benefits and harms.

If your doctor suggests certain cancer screening tests as part of your health care plan, this does not mean he or she thinks you have cancer. Screening tests are done when you have no symptoms. Since decisions about screening can be difficult, you may want to discuss them with your doctor and ask questions about the potential benefits and risks of screening tests and whether they have been proven to decrease the risk of dying from cancer.

If your doctor suspects that you may have cancer, he or she will order certain tests to see whether you do. These are called diagnostic tests. Some tests are used for diagnostic purposes, but are not suitable for screening people who have no symptoms.


Purposes of this summary

The purposes of this summary on hepatocellular cancer screening are to:

  • Give information on hepatocellular cancer and what makes it more likely to occur (risk factors).
  • Describe hepatocellular cancer screening methods and what is known about their effectiveness.

You can talk to your doctor or health care professional about cancer screening and whether it would be likely to help you.


Hepatocellular Cancer Screening

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Hepatocellular cancer is cancer that arises in the liver rather than cancer that has spread to the liver from another organ in the body. The liver is one of the largest organs in the body, filling the upper right side of the abdomen and protected by the rib cage. The liver has many functions. It has an important role in converting food into energy and in filtering and storing blood.


Risk of hepatocellular cancer

Hepatocellular cancer is not a common cancer in the United States, however it is the fourth most common cancer in the world.

Anything that increases a person's chance of developing a disease is called a risk factor. Some of these risk factors for hepatocellular cancer are as follows:

Sex: In the United States, men, especially Chinese American men, have a greater risk of developing hepatocellular cancer.

Hepatitis: Chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C increase a person's risk of developing hepatocellular cancer. The risk is even greater when a person is infected with both hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

Cirrhosis: People who have cirrhosis are at risk of developing hepatocellular cancer.

Metabolism Disorders: Some metabolism disorders may also increase the risk of hepatocellular cancer. An example is excess accumulation of iron in the liver (hemochromatosis).


Screening tests for hepatocellular cancer

A routine effective screening test for hepatocellular cancer has not yet been developed. Screening trials using ultrasound, computed tomography (CT), and blood tests are ongoing.


Changes to This Summary (06/21/2005)

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The PDQ® cancer information summaries are reviewed regularly and updated as new information becomes available. This section describes the latest changes made to this summary as of the date above.

Links to the NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms were added to this summary.


Questions or Comments About This Summary

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If you have questions or comments about this summary, please send them to Cancer.gov through the Web site's Contact Form. We can respond only to email messages written in English.


Get More Information From NCI

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Call 1-800-4-CANCER

For more information, U.S. residents may call the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Deaf and hard-of-hearing callers with TTY equipment may call 1-800-332-8615. The call is free and a trained Cancer Information Specialist is available to answer your questions.

Chat online

The NCI's LiveHelp online chat service provides Internet users with the ability to chat online with an Information Specialist. The service is available from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern time, Monday through Friday. Information Specialists can help Internet users find information on NCI Web sites and answer questions about cancer.

Write to us

For more information from the NCI, please write to this address:

  • NCI Public Inquiries Office
  • Suite 3036A
  • 6116 Executive Boulevard, MSC8322
  • Bethesda, MD 20892-8322

Search the NCI Web site

The NCI Web site provides online access to information on cancer, clinical trials, and other Web sites and organizations that offer support and resources for cancer patients and their families. For a quick search, use our Best Bets search box in the upper right hand corner of each Web page. The results that are most closely related to your search term will be listed as Best Bets at the top of the list of search results.

There are also many other places to get materials and information about cancer treatment and services. Hospitals in your area may have information about local and regional agencies that have information on finances, getting to and from treatment, receiving care at home, and dealing with problems related to cancer treatment.

Find Publications

The NCI has booklets and other materials for patients, health professionals, and the public. These publications discuss types of cancer, methods of cancer treatment, coping with cancer, and clinical trials. Some publications provide information on tests for cancer, cancer causes and prevention, cancer statistics, and NCI research activities. NCI materials on these and other topics may be ordered online or printed directly from the NCI Publications Locator. These materials can also be ordered by telephone from the Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237), TTY at 1-800-332-8615.


About PDQ®

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PDQ® is a comprehensive cancer database available on NCI's Web site.

PDQ® is the National Cancer Institute's (NCI's) comprehensive cancer information database. Most of the information contained in PDQ® is available online at NCI's Web site. PDQ® is provided as a service of the NCI. The NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health, the federal government's focal point for biomedical research.

PDQ® contains cancer information summaries.

The PDQ® database contains summaries of the latest published information on cancer prevention, detection, genetics, treatment, supportive care, and complementary and alternative medicine. Most summaries are available in two versions. The health professional versions provide detailed information written in technical language. The patient versions are written in easy-to-understand, nontechnical language. Both versions provide current and accurate cancer information.

The PDQ® cancer information summaries are developed by cancer experts and reviewed regularly.

Editorial Boards made up of experts in oncology and related specialties are responsible for writing and maintaining the cancer information summaries. The summaries are reviewed regularly and changes are made as new information becomes available. The date on each summary ("Date Last Modified") indicates the time of the most recent change.

PDQ® also contains information on clinical trials.

A clinical trial is a study to answer a scientific question, such as whether a method of finding cancer earlier can help people to live longer. Trials are based on past studies and what has been learned in the laboratory. Each trial answers certain scientific questions in order to find new and better ways to help cancer patients and those who are at risk for cancer. During screening clinical trials, information is collected about the effects of a new screening method and how well it works. If a clinical trial shows that a new method is better than one currently being used, the new method may become "standard." People who are at high risk for a certain type of cancer may want to think about taking part in a clinical trial.

Listings of clinical trials are included in PDQ® and are available online at NCI's Web site. Descriptions of the trials are available in health professional and patient versions. Many cancer doctors who take part in clinical trials are also listed in PDQ®. For more information, call the Cancer Information Service 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237); TTY at 1-800-332-8615.


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