Hepatocellular Carcinoma

What is HCC?

The most common type of liver cancer in adults is hepatocellular carcinoma, also known as HCC.1 It develops when healthy liver cells start to multiply in overdrive in an effort to repair damage. However, this massive effort can sometimes do more harm than good, resulting in genetic mutation.2 In other words, cancer cells are produced instead of healthy cells.

There are two types of liver cancer:

  • Primary liver cancer – starts in the liver
  • Secondary liver cancer – starts somewhere else and spreads to the liver

How HCC Liver Cancer Progresses

Over time, HCC cells form a lump (or multiple lumps) in the liver. This is called a tumor. As it develops, the tumor recruits blood vessels to feed it. These blood vessels supply nutrients and oxygen to the tumor, allowing it to grow. If the tumor cells enter the blood stream, the tumor may spread to other parts of the body. This is called metastasis.2

HCC can form many small cancer tumors throughout the liver. This is seen most often in patient with cirrhosis (chronic liver damage). It can also begin as a single tumor that grows and spreads to other parts of the liver.


Your doctor may request the following tests and procedures to diagnose liver cancer

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging exams, such as ultrasounds, CT and MRI
  • Liver biopsy: a procedure that removes a small sample of the organ’s tissue for testing

An Overview of Treatment Options

There are various options and combinations of options for treating HCC. You and your medical team will determine the best treatment plan based on your stage of cancer, your health and your preferences. Your plan could be a combination of different treatments listed. Be sure to ask your doctor about the benefits and potential risks associated with your particular treatment plan.


Surgical Resection involves removing a portion of the liver and is a common procedure if the HCC is in its early stages.2,4,5

Liver Transplant involves removing the whole liver and replacing it with a healthy liver from a donor.6

Systemic Therapies

Targeted Drug Therapy designed to target and kill cancerous cells without affecting normal cells.7

Immunotherapy involves the use of medicines to help your own immune system find and destroy cancer cells.8

Chemotherapy (Chemo) uses drugs to destroy, shrink or slow the growth of cancer cells.9

Minimally Invasive Therapies

Ablation uses radiofrequency, microwave (heat) or cryotherapy (freezing) to destroy the liver tumor.10

Embolization uses special techniques to close off blood flow to the tumor.11

Radioembolization is a minimally invasive procedure that combines embolization and radiation therapy.12

TheraSphere™ is a proven radiation-based therapy available that has been developed to treat liver cancers, such as HCC. It’s been used to treat HCC for more than 20 years, and it may help your fight against cancer. TheraSphere is the only minimally invasive medical device approved by the FDA for the treatment of HCC. 

To learn more about TheraSphere download the patient brochure, or visit TheraSphere.com.


There are numerous organizations dedicated to helping you or your loved one navigate HCC. Through the following resources you’ll find more information on liver cancer, patient and family support, helplines and patient communities.

Cancer Information and Support

The National Cancer Institute (NCI)
American Cancer Society (ACS)

Liver Foundations

American Liver Foundation (ALF)

Support Groups

Cancer Care
Cancer Hope Network (CHN)
Yttrium-90 Microspheres Education and Support (YES)

Other Resources

The Interventional Initiative

Understanding HCC Liver Cancer