Liver Cancer - Overview

The liver filters all the blood circulating in the body, takes the nutrients and drugs from the blood and convert them into the ready to use chemicals for body. This organ also performs other important functions, such as removing the toxins and other waste chemicals from the blood and sending them for excretion. As all the blood in the body has to pass through the liver, the chances of liver to be accessible by the cancerous cells, travelling in the bloodstream, are high.

Liver Cancer - Overview

The liver cancer is the tumor forms in the liver and affects all the primary function of the liver. The post here would give a brief introduction of liver cancer causes, symptoms, detection, liver cancer diagnosis, early stage symptoms, risk factors, treatment, prognosis, stages, types and preventive measures for liver cancer.

Types of liver cancer

There are four categories of liver cancer:

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
  • Cholangiocarcinoma (Bile Duct Cancer)
  • Angiosarcoma
  • Hepatoblastoma

Causes of Liver Cancer

The causes this cancer are not clear, however, in some cases the causes can be known:

  • Viral infection
  • Cirrhosis
  • Aflatoxin (toxic compounds released by certain molds found in food, which can cause liver damage and cancer).

Liver Cancer Risk Factors

The common risk factors of liver cancer are

  • Chronic infection with hepatitis C virus (HBV) or hepatitis B virus (HCV)
  • Cirrhosis
  • Hereditary liver diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
  • Contact with aflatoxins
  • Extreme consumption of alcohol
  • Obesity

Liver Cancer Signs and Symptoms

As this cancer has many types, the signs and symptoms depend on the kind of the cancer. For example, the symptoms of cholangiocarcinoma (type of liver cancer) are sweating, jaundice, abdominal pain, weight loss and liver enlargement.

Common signs and symptoms of the liver cancer

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Not able to have the usual diets
  • Vomiting
  • Swollen liver
  • Swollen spleen
  • Abdominal pain or pain in the right shoulder blade
  • Fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Itching
  • Jaundice

Liver Cancer Detection & Diagnosis

The early detection of the liver cancer is hard as the signs and symptoms of the disease are not clear. However, in the later stages it can be diagnosed.

There are several methods of diagnosis of the liver cancer. If a person has any sign or symptom of the liver cancer he/she can go through these tests.

  • Imaging tests

    The images of the tumor are generated to examine with the help of high doses of x-rays or waves, for example, ultrasound, computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging.

  • Angiography

    In this, x-rays are used to look at the blood vessel. For this a contrast medium or dye is injected into an artery to outline blood vessels while x-ray images are taken.

  • Other tests

    • Laparoscopy
    • Biopsy
    • Alpha-fetoprotein blood (AFP) test

Liver Cancer Treatment

The treatment of this disease is completely depending upon the stage of cancer, age and physical condition of the patient. However, there some commonly use treatment procudres for the liver cancer:

  • Surgery - Removing cancerous tissue from the organ.
  • Liver transplant - replacing the diseased liver with the healthy one of some other person.
  • Freezing the cancerous cells
  • Heating the cancerous cells
  • Injecting alcohol into the tumor - using alcohol to kill the cancerous cells or tissues.
  • Chemotherapy - injection of drugs to kill the cancerous cells.
  • Radiation therapy - high dose of radiations to remove or examine the tumor
  • Targeted drug therapy - injecting the drugs directly into the liver or affected tissues to kill the cancerous cells.

Prognosis & Stages of Liver Cancer

For prognosis of the cancer it has been divided into three summery stages:

Localized: the cancer is still inside of the liver and includes first, second and some part of third stage of the liver cancer.

Regional: in this group the cancer has spread through the nearby organs.

Distant: cancer has spread through the distant organ or tissues.

Stage 5-year Relative Survival Rate
Localized 28%
Regional 7%
Distant 2%

Prevention of Liver Cancer

  • Reduced consumption of the alcohol
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Be cautious about the consumption/intake of chemicals
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