Bianca Castro

Liver Cancer Deaths Rise, According to CDC

Liver cancer deaths have increased by 43 percent in the last 15 years

What to Know

  • A new CDC study indicated liver cancer deaths have increased by 43 percent over the past 15 years.
  • Risk factors include obesity, IV drug use and tattoos.
  • The liver cancer survival rate is between 3 and 31 percent.

More Americans are dying from liver cancer, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control.

It shows liver cancer deaths have increased by 43 percent over the past 15 years.

Experts blamed the increase on rising levels of hepatitis C and obesity among baby boomers.

Doctors said more people should be getting screened.

Survival are rates typically low, between 3 and 31 percent.

The cancer can be treated if it's caught early, according to Dr. Robert Goldstein, Baylor Scott & White hepatobiliary surgeon, who specializes in delivering immediate evaluation and management for patients newly diagnosed with benign and cancerous liver lesions. 

Dr. Goldstein said most people don't get screened early enough for risk factors of diseases, like hepatitis C or fatty liver disease, that lead to liver cancer.

"These risk factors would be obesity, IV drug use, any drug use back in the 70s or 80s, anyone with a tattoo, whether professional or homemade, particularly in the 70s and 80s and 90s. Anyone of those people should be checked."

Blood transfusions and organ transplants were not screened for hepatitis C until 1992, and it often takes years for someone infected with hepatitis C to develop liver cancer. 

Obesity is associated with an increased risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. 

Other liver cancer patients, like Curtis Curlee of Cleburne, may not have any risk factors.

He was diagnosed with an 11-centimeter tumor in his liver in October of 2017.

"It broke my heart. No words for it. No one wants to have cancer and I certainly didn't. Just like a death sentence, it hurt," Curlee said.

What saved his life was getting to a comprehensive liver program at Baylor Scott & White All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth before the cancer spread.

Radiation shrunk the tumor, and nine months later, the cancer was gone.

"I feel like I am clean again, inside and out," Curlee said.

Screening for hepatitis C or fatty liver disease involves a blood test.

It's not a routine screening, and experts suggest you talk to your doctor about your risk and see if a screening is right for you.  

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