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Blood Tests for Liver Cancer and Liver Disease

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Blood tests help doctors at the UPMC Liver Cancer Center determine:

  • Your general health
  • How well your liver works
  • Whether you have been exposed, in the past, to hepatitis B or hepatitis C, and whether the hepatitis is active

Platelet Count

A platelet count can detect liver cancer in its early stages.

A white cell count below the normal range can be a sign of an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly) and/or an increase in the blood pressure within the liver’s blood vessels (portal hypertension).

Blood Chemistries

Blood tests — known as blood chemistries — evaluate liver function, specifically:

  • Albumin levels
  • Blood creatinine levels
  • Prothrombin time
  • Transaminase levels (ALT, AST, GGTP)

Tumor Markers

Blood tests for specific tumor "markers" detect the presence of:

  • Alpha-fetoprotein (AFP)
  • Des-gamma-carboxy prothrombin (DCP or PIVKA-2)
  • Neurotensin

DCP and neurotensin are markers (in the presence of a normal AFP) for the fibrolamellar variant of liver cancer, which often occurs in children.

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