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AFP is used to help detect and diagnose cancers of the liver, testes, and ovaries. It is often ordered to monitor people with chronic liver diseases such as cirrhosis or chronic hepatitis B because they have an increased lifetime risk of developing liver cancer. A doctor may order an AFP test, along with imaging studies, to try to detect liver cancer when it is in its earliest, and most treatable, stages.

If a patient has been diagnosed with hepatocellular carcinoma or another form of AFP-producing cancer, an AFP test may be ordered periodically to help monitor a patient's response to therapy and to monitor for cancer recurrence.

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