Cancer Home > Liver Cancer Diagnosis

Initially, when considering a liver cancer diagnosis, a doctor will likely perform a physical exam and look for signs of disease. The doctor will also usually review the patient's medical history. Certain tests may be needed to make a definitive diagnosis. These tests may include such things as a CT or MRI scan, blood tests, an angiogram, and a biopsy.

An Introduction to Diagnosing Liver Cancer

If a person has possible symptoms of liver cancer, the doctor may do a physical exam and ask about the person's personal and family medical history. The doctor may also recommend additional tests and procedures.

Physical Exam and Medical History

During the physical exam, the doctor will examine the body to check general signs of health, including checking for signs of disease, such as lumps or anything else that seems unusual. The doctor also checks for ascites, an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen. The doctor may examine the skin and eyes for signs of jaundice (a yellow color).
The doctor will likely also ask for a history of the patient's health habits, a family history of any medical conditions, and any past illnesses and treatments the patient has had.

Exams and Tests Used to Diagnose Liver Cancer

The exams and tests used to make a liver cancer diagnosis may include the following:
  • Blood tests
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Ultrasound
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Angiogram
  • Laparoscopy
  • Biopsy.
Blood Tests
Many blood tests may be used to check for liver problems. One blood test detects alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). High AFP levels could be a possible sign of liver cancer. Other blood tests can show how well the liver is working.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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