Can a CAT Scan Falsely Diagnose Liver Cancer?

Last Editorial Review: 1/11/2018

Ask the experts

Can a CAT scan be misinterpreted, meaning could someone be told that they have cancer of the liver, when in fact they might have cirrhosis of the liver? Should a second check be done?

Doctor's Response:

Every test that requires interpretation can be "mis"interpreted, and the CAT (CT) scan is no exception. Cirrhosis of the liver results from the death of the normal liver cells followed by formation of scar tissue and re-growth of abnormal liver cells. In one type of cirrhosis (macronodular cirrhosis), re-growth results in large nodules of abnormal liver cells that may be mistaken for tumors, benign or malignant (cancer). Tests other than the CT scan may be used to help differentiate tumors from cirrhosis (e.g., angiography, MRI), but ultimately, a definite differentiation of tumor from cirrhosis usually requires a liver biopsy. For more information about liver biopsy, see our full medical article on liver biopsy.


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