(hepatocellular carcinoma) n. a primary malignant tumour of the liver. Almost all patients have pre-existing cirrhosis. It is the most common primary tumour of the liver, with the highest incidence in the Far East (Taiwan). In Western countries patients with cirrhosis due to chronic hepatitis B or C infection are at the highest risk. The higher incidence of hepatomas in non-Western societies is partly due to increased hepatitis B endemicity but other factors, including fungi (see aflatoxin) and other ingested toxins, do contribute towards some cases. Hepatomas often synthesize alpha-fetoprotein, which circulates in the blood and is a useful marker for these tumours. The treatment options depend on the number and size of hepatomas and the synthetic function of the liver. They include liver transplantation, surgical resection, chemotherapy, and local ablative treatment. Hepatitis B vaccination has helped to reduce the incidence of hepatoma in parts of Asia and Africa.
Subjects: Medicine and Health.