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Liver Cancer Diagnosis

CT Scan
An x-ray machine linked to a computer takes a series of detailed pictures of the liver and other organs and blood vessels in the abdomen. The patient may receive an injection of a special dye so that the liver shows up clearly in the pictures. From the CT scan, the doctor may see tumors in the liver or elsewhere in the abdomen.
The ultrasound device uses sound waves that cannot be heard by humans. The sound waves produce a pattern of echoes as they bounce off internal organs. The echoes create a picture (called a sonogram) of the liver and other organs in the abdomen. Tumors may produce echoes that are different from the echoes made by healthy tissues.
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
During an MRI, a powerful magnet linked to a computer is used to make detailed pictures of areas inside the body. These pictures are viewed on a monitor and can also be printed.
For an angiogram, the patient may be in the hospital and may have anesthesia. The doctor injects dye into an artery so that the blood vessels in the liver show up on an x-ray. The angiogram can reveal a tumor in the liver.
A laparoscopy is a surgical procedure to look at the organs inside the abdomen and check for signs of disease. Small incisions are made in the wall of the abdomen, and a laparoscope (a thin, lighted tube) is inserted into one of the incisions. Other instruments may be inserted through the same incision or through other incisions to perform procedures such as removing organs or taking tissue samples for biopsy.
In some cases, the doctor may remove a sample of tissue. A pathologist (a person who studies disease) uses a microscope to look for cancer cells in the tissue.
The doctor may obtain tissue in several ways. One way involves inserting a thin needle into the liver to remove a small amount of tissue. This is called fine-needle aspiration. The doctor may use CT or ultrasound to guide the needle.
Sometimes, the doctor obtains a sample of tissue with a thick needle (this procedure is called a core biopsy) or through a laparoscope. Another way is to remove tissue during an operation.
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