Early Warning Signs Of Liver Cancer
Early Warning Signs Of Liver Cancer.
The signs and symptoms of liver cancer are most often the result of liver damage and may include yellowing of the skin (jaundice), right-sided abdominal or shoulder blade pain, or a lump in the right upper abdomen.
What Is Liver Cancer?
Liver cancer is cancer that begins in the tissues of the liver. The liver is the largest glandular organ in the body and performs various critical functions to keep the body free of toxins and harmful substances. It’s located in the right upper quadrant of the abdomen, right below the ribs. The liver is responsible for producing bile, which is a substance that helps you digest fats, vitamins, and other nutrients. It’s the fourth most common cause of cancer death in the world, accounting for 782,000 deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization.
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Liver cancer is generally classified as primary or secondary. Primary liver cancer begins in the cells of the liver. Secondary liver cancer develops when cancer cells from another organ spread to the liver. Cancer cells can break away from the primary site, or where the cancer began. The cells travel to other areas of the body through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system. Cancer cells eventually collect in another body organ and begin to grow there.
This type of cancer includes hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and the less common, bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma), according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
The rates of liver cancer diagnoses have been increasing by 2.6 percent every year for the past 10 years.
Risk factors for liver cancer include hepatitis B and C (hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver), cirrhosis (a condition in which liver tissue scars and prevents the flow of blood through the liber, that can be caused by excess drinking or hepatitis) and aflatoxin (poison from a type of fungus that can grow on improperly stored food), according to the NCI.
Different Types of Primary Liver Cancer?
The different types of primary liver cancer originate from the various cells that make up the liver. Primary liver cancer can start as a single lump growing in the liver, or it can start in many places within the liver at the same time. The main types of primary liver cancer are:
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), also known as hepatoma, is the most common type of liver cancer, accounting for 75 percent of all liver cancers. This condition develops in the hepatocytes, which are the predominant liver cells. It can spread from the liver to other parts of the body, such as the pancreas, intestines, and stomach. HCC is much more likely to occur in people who have severe liver damage due to alcohol abuse.
Cholangiocarcinoma, more commonly known as bile duct cancer, develops in the small, tube-like bile ducts in the liver. These ducts carry bile to the gallbladder to help with digestion. Bile duct cancer accounts for approximately 10 to 20 percent of all liver cancers. When the cancer begins in the section of the ducts inside the liver, it’s called intrahepatic bile duct cancer.
Liver angiosarcoma is a rare form of liver cancer that begins in the blood vessels of the liver. This type of cancer tends to progress very quickly, so it’s typically diagnosed at a more advanced stage.
Hepatoblastoma is an extremely rare type of liver cancer. It’s nearly always found in children, especially those under age 3. With surgery and chemotherapy, the outlook for people with this type of cancer can be very good. When hepatoblastoma is detected in the early stages, the survival rate is higher than 90 percent.
Symptoms of Liver Cancer
Most people in the early stages of primary liver cancer do not experience any signs or symptoms, but the most common symptom of liver cancer is that it’s asymptomatic. When symptoms do appear, they may include:
• Abdominal discomfort, pain, and tenderness.
• Yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, which is called jaundice.
• White, chalky stools.
• Bruising or bleeding easily.
• Abdominal swelling.
• Loss of appetite.
• Unexplained weight loss.
Diagnosis & Tests Of Liver Cancer
Physicians conducting routine physical examinations may be able to detect an enlarged, tender liver, and they can further confirm their findings through abdominal ultrasound and CT scans, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
However, enlarged liver and abnormal liver function can be indicative of other liver diseases. The doctor will need to narrow down the diagnosis by performing further tests such as a liver biopsy, where a sample of the liver tissue is removed and examined for abnormal growth.
Doctors can also test for tumor markers, such as alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). AFP is a protein that’s usually produced by the fetus but can signal the presence of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) if it’s found in adults.
Who is at Risk for Liver Cancer?
There are certain factors that are known to increase the risk of developing liver cancer:
1. Liver cancer is more common in people over age 50.
2. A long-term hepatitis B or C infection can severely damage your liver. Hepatitis is spread from person-to-person through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, such as their blood or semen. It may also be passed from mother to child during childbirth. You can lower your risk for hepatitis B and C by using protection during sexual intercourse.
3. Having two or more alcoholic beverages every day over many years could increases your risk for liver cancer.
4. Cirrhosis is a form of liver damage in which healthy tissue is replaced by scarred tissue. Long-term alcohol abuse and hepatitis C are the most common causes of cirrhosis in the United States. The majority of Americans with liver cancer have cirrhosis before they develop liver cancer.
5. Diabetes and obesity are also risk factors. People with diabetes tend to be overweight or obese, which can cause liver problems and increase risk for liver cancer.
Liver Cancer Treatment & Medication
The type of treatment will depend on the type and the stage of cancer being treated, according to the National Cancer Institute. The following list lists some of the possible treatment methods:
- Ablation therapy is a treatment that destroys or removes the cancerous tissues. Radio frequency ablation is a minimally invasive option, in which a doctor uses a needle electrode to deliver high-energy radio waves to heat and kill the cancer cells.
- For patients with early-stage liver cancer, surgery may involve a partial hepatectomy, where the diseased portion of the liver is removed, or liver transplant surgery, where the entire liver is removed and replaced. To get a liver transplant, the person will need a donor who has the same blood type and a liver that is approximately the same size.
- External radiation therapy, which is the more common form of radiation therapy, uses X-rays or other high-energy rays to kill cancer cells and shrink tumors, according to the National Cancer Institute. There’s also internal radiation therapy, where the radioactive substance is sealed in needles, wires, or catheters and then placed at a spot close to the tumor.
- Chemotherapy uses drugs to kill or temporarily slow the growth of cancer cells. The drug can be released through an implanted pump or injected into a vein or the hepatic artery to deliver a high concentration of the drugs directly to cancer cells in the liver, according to the National Cancer Institute.
How Can Liver Cancer Be Prevented?
Liver cancer can’t always be prevented. However, you reduce your risk for liver cancer by taking steps to prevent the development of conditions that can lead to liver cancer.
1. Ensure you get the Hepatitis B Vaccine
There’s a vaccine for hepatitis B that all children should receive. Adults who are at high risk for infection, such as those who abuse intravenous drugs, should also be vaccinated. The vaccination is usually given in a series of three injections over a period of six months.
In conclusion, A liver cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. It’s important to have a strong support network that can help you deal with any stress or anxiety you may be feeling.
Take Measures to Prevent Hepatitis C
There’s no vaccine for hepatitis C, but you can reduce your risk of getting the infection by doing the following:
1. Use protection. Always practice safe sex by using a condom with all of your sexual partners. You should never engage in unprotected sex unless you’re certain your partner isn’t infected with hepatitis or any other sexually transmitted infection.
2. Don’t use illegal drugs. Avoid using illegal drugs, particularly those that can be injected, such as heroin or cocaine. If you’re unable to stop using drugs, make sure to use a sterile needle each time you inject them. Never share needles with other people.
3. Be cautious about tattoos and piercings.
Reduce Your Risk of Cirrhosis
You can lower your risk of cirrhosis by doing the following:
1. Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink can help prevent liver damage. Women shouldn’t drink more than one drink per day, and men shouldn’t drink more than two drinks per day. [ Drinking Alcohol Raise Your Cancer Risk, Health Effects For Alcohol ]
2. Maintain a healthy weight. Exercising for 30 minutes at least three times per week can help you maintain your weight. Eating a balanced diet is also important for weight management. Make sure you incorporate lean protein, whole grains, and vegetables or fruit into most of your meals. You may also want to consider meeting with a nutritionist. They can help you create a meal plan and exercise routine that allow you to achieve your weight loss goals more quickly. [Dieting And Exercising But Not Losing Weight ]
If you already have one of these conditions and you’re concerned about your risk for liver cancer, talk to your doctor about a liver cancer screening.
Additional resources on liver cancer:
The National Cancer Institute has more information on statistics, prevention, treatment, coping and new research on liver cancer.
American Cancer Society to help you find the best treatment for liver cancer in your area.
Learn more about liver transplants in this guide offered by the Mayo Clinic.