How Can I Prevent Liver Cancer?

Since it's not always clear what causes liver cancer, doctors do not always know how to prevent it. Even so, you should still avoid known risk factors as much as possible. Below are some ways to avoid risk factors that have been linked to liver cancer:

  • Avoid cirrhosis by seeking treatment before it develops. Make lifestyle changes such as losing weight, not drinking any alcohol, quitting smoking, and taking vitamin D supplements. taking statins has been shown to decrease the risk of developing liver cancer.

  • Avoid activities that increase the risk of exposure to the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV). These activities include using intravenous drugs, having many sex partners, and handling human blood or fluids without protection. Also, be sure to ask your doctor if you should get the hepatitis B vaccine. If you are at risk for HBV or HCV infection, ask your doctor about getting tested. For people who are infected, drugs are available that can keep the infections in check or even cure them in some people. This may lower your risk of liver cancer. 

  • Avoid drinking a lot of alcohol to reduce your risk of cirrhosis, a disease of the liver that increases the risk of liver cancer.

  • Avoid any raw food that may contain the fungus Aspergillus flavus, which releases toxins that can lead to liver cancer. 

Can I get checked for liver cancer before I have symptoms?

Symptoms of liver cancer often do not appear until it is in later stages. Doctor's don't recommend screening tests for liver cancer for most people. If you have known risk factors, your doctor may advise testing. Risk factors include heavy alcohol use, cirrhosis, or hepatitis B or C infection.

If you have cirrhosis of the liver, your doctor will watch you closely. This may include repeated blood tests for alpha-fetoprotein (AFP).  AFP is a tumor marker for liver cancer. If it is high, it can be a sign of liver cancer and further tests may be done. Ultrasound imaging of the liver may be used to find liver cancer before it causes symptoms in people at high risk. An ultrasound machine uses sound waves to create pictures of the internal organs, including the liver. If you are at high risk, your doctor may do ultrasounds every 6 months.

MRI or CT scan may be done for diagnosis.