It is important to get an accurate diagnosis of primary liver cancer so that your condition can be treated the right way. Your doctor will ask questions about your medical and family history, lifestyle habits and perform a physical examination.
The simplest imaging study of the liver is an ultrasound. There is no radiation risk and can be done on a regular basis, especially in individuals who are at risk of liver cancer, for e.g. hepatitis B carriers. It is however not always accurate and or very specific.
A CT scan is a better way of detecting liver cancer and is crucial for treatment planning. This would be the basic imaging that will be done by the liver surgeon to detect and plan a treatment strategy. In certain cases, a CT scan may not be enough or is inconclusive, and additional investigations like MRI or a PET scan may be performed.
A blood test that measures the level of a protein produced by the liver called alpha fetoprotein (AFP) is associated with HCC but it should not be used in isolation or as a routine screening test.
Occasionally, a small amount of liver tissue may be sampled via a needle procedure (liver biopsy), this may be required to guide management and/or if the diagnosis is unclear.
Other scans or investigations may be required if necessary for diagnosis, staging and/or to guide treatment strategy.