Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center leads the region as the most
comprehensive and innovative treatment facility for patients with
chronic and acute liver disease caused by cancer, metabolic disorders,
infection, genetic disorders and chemical dependency.
Liver, or hepatocellular cancer, is a disease in which malignant
cells form in the tissues of the liver, one of the largest organs in the
body. The liver filters harmful substances from the blood, digests fats
from food and stores the sugar that your body uses for energy. Primary
liver cancer starts in the liver. Metastatic liver cancer starts
elsewhere in the body and spreads to the liver.
Hepatocellular carcinoma accounts for most liver cancers. It occurs
more often in men than women, and is usually seen in people age 50 or
The cause of liver cancer is usually cirrhosis of the liver, which may be caused by:
- Alcohol abuse
- Autoimmune diseases of the liver
- Hepatitis B or C virus infection
- Chronic inflammation of the liver
- Iron overload in the body (hemochromatosis)
- Low body weight at birth
People with hepatitis B or C are at risk for liver cancer, even if they have not developed cirrhosis.
Diagnosis begins with a complete medical history and physical exam,
which may reveal an enlarged, tender liver. Doctors use the following
tests to confirm a diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma:
- Abdominal CT scan
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Liver biopsy
- Liver function tests
- Liver MRI
- Serum alpha fetoprotein
Some high-risk patients may get regular blood tests and ultrasounds to catch developing tumors at an early stage.
If your doctor learns that you do have cancer, more tests will be
done to see if the cancer has spread. This is called staging. CT or MRI
scans of the abdomen, pelvic area, chest, or brain may be used to stage
the cancer. Sometimes, PET scans are also used. Blood tests to detect
tumor markers, including carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) and CA 19-9, may
help your physician follow you during and after treatment.
The Texas Liver Center team pursues liver transplant aggressively in patients who have failed medical treatment, including high-risk cases.
Certified as a United Network for Organ Sharing transplant center,
the overall program reports outcomes in patient and graft survival that
exceed national benchmarks. We partner with referring physicians in the
care of these patients and provide regular updates as they are evaluated
for transplant, listed and transplanted.
Aggressive surgery can successfully treat small or slow growing tumors if they are diagnosed early.
Surgery may include hepatic resection, a procedure in which part of all of the liver is removed, or hepatic artery ligation or embolization, a procedure to tie off or embolize the hepatic artery, the main blood vessel supplying blood to the liver.
Chemotherapy delivered directly into the liver with a catheter can
help, but will not cure the disease. Radiation treatments in the area of
the tumor may also be helpful. These treatments are more difficult in
patients who have liver cirrhosis or other liver diseases.
As a teaching hospital affiliated with The University of Texas Health
Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School, Memorial
Hermann-Texas Medical Center offers access to innovative
treatments and technologies as soon as they are made available, whether
in the development and testing phases, or after FDA approval.