Fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma (FHCC) is a kind of cancer which arises in the liver. It is a relatively rare tumor, which mainly affects people under the age of 40. The symptoms of this kind of cancer are not always obvious, and they may include generally feeling unwell, losing weight and experiencing pains in the abdomen. This disease is associated with a better outlook than the most common type of liver cancer, which is known as hepatocellular carcinoma.
A patient with fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma will usually be treated by an oncology specialist. This type of digestive system neoplasia may reveal itself as a swelling in the abdomen, which can be felt by the doctor. The swelling develops as a result of the liver becoming enlarged due to the developing tumor. While the more common liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, is usually linked with a form of liver damage called cirrhosis, cirrhosis is not normally seen in the livers of people with fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma.
The most common type of treatment involves surgery to remove part or all of the liver. If the surgeon considers that it is possible to remove the entire tumor by cutting out only a section of the liver, this will be carried out. Where too much of the liver is taken up by the tumor for this to be feasible, the whole organ may be taken out and replaced by a donor liver. This depends on a suitable donor organ being available.
A less common treatment, which may be used in patients whose tumors have spread beyond the liver into other parts of the body, is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy involves taking a series of doses of one or a combination of drugs, often administered through a drip feeding into a vein. Sometimes a course of chemotherapy may also be given following surgery to remove the tumor. This is to kill any cancer cells which might have been left behind after the operation.
Statistics concerning fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma prognosis show that around a third of patients are still alive five years after their cancer has been diagnosed. This is much better than the outlook for hepatocellular carcinoma, where only around a quarter of patients survive for a year after diagnosis. Doctors are not sure whether the difference in prognosis might exist because these patients are generally younger and healthier, as well as their livers do not typically have cirrhosis.