Your liver is the largest organ in your abdomen (and your body). It weighs about the same as a half-gallon of milk you’d buy at the supermarket. It’s not only big in size, but also in importance—the liver performs essential functions, like removing waste and filtering out toxins (including medications and alcohol) from the blood. It also secretes bile and enzymes that allow the body to digest food and extract its nutrients, among other things.
Liver cancers are the 6th most common cancer type worldwide. Here in the United States, more than 40,000 liver cancer cases are diagnosed each year. People at the highest risk for liver cancer are those with viral infections of the liver (such as hepatitis) and chronic liver disease (cirrhosis). Fatty liver disease and alcohol-induced liver cirrhosis are other potential causes.
“It’s important to know that most liver diseases, which can lead to liver cancer, are treatable,” says Yale Medicine’s Mario Strazzabosco, MD, director of the Liver Cancer Program at Yale Cancer Center and a professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine. “Also, many cases of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common type of primary liver cancer, can be diagnosed early if high-risk patients are closely monitored by their doctor. There is a lot that we can do for patients diagnosed at an early stage, and some patients can be cured.”