4 essential things to know about liver cancer

4 essential things to know about liver cancer

The liver is football-sized and is the body’s largest internal organ. It’s located in the abdomen’s upper right corner, above the stomach, and under the diaphragm. The development of infected cells in the liver causes cancer in this organ. Primary and secondary are the two kinds of liver cancer. The former starts in the organ’s internal cells, and the latter develops when cancer cells from other organs metastasize or spread to the liver.

Herein, we focus on the disease’s symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment. Having sufficient knowledge about this disease can help one take timely action.

1. Symptoms of liver cancer
In the beginning, liver cancer may not show any signs, or there may be vague symptoms like night sweats, chills, fever, or fatigue. However, over time, the symptoms that arise are

  • Swollen legs
  • Itching across the body
  • Jaundice
  • Loss of appetite
  • Body mass loss
  • Swelling, pain, or tenderness in the abdomen’s upper right section

With the progression of liver disease, its cancer might result in symptoms such as fatigue, vomiting, nausea, fever, mental confusion, general weakness, decreased libido, formation of skin lesions that look like a spider, and pain in the abdomen’s left side because of an enlarged spleen.

2. Causes of liver cancer
Liver cancer happens with a mutation in the cell DNA, i.e. when the cells grow out of control and form a tumor. Sometimes, even chronic hepatitis can cause it; however, unfortunately, at times, there are no underlying conditions. Hence, it is difficult to pinpoint the specific cause of the disease.

Risk factors
Some factors aggravate the risk of developing liver cancer, including

Cirrhosis
It is an irreversible, progressive condition causing the development of scar tissues in the liver. These tissues aggravate the chances of developing cancer.

Diabetes
People with diabetes are more susceptible to developing this cancer.

Fatty liver disease
Fat accumulation in the liver also makes one vulnerable to the disease.

Chronic infection
Having a chronic infection with the hepatitis C or hepatitis B virus also puts one at risk of liver cancer.

Aflatoxin exposure
The poison aflatoxin, which is yielded through molds, grows on poorly stored crops like nuts and grains. So, when these contaminated items end up in the food one eats, the risk of liver cancer heightens.

Inherited liver disease
Conditions like Wilson’s disease and hemochromatosis can also aggravate the risk of liver diseases.

3. Diagnosis of liver cancer
For diagnosis, the doctor will first enquire about the patient’s medical history to rule out the risk factors. Further, a physical examination will follow to assess symptoms of jaundice or abdominal swelling. These two signs are giveaway indicators of liver issues. If the doctor suspects cancer, they may recommend the following tests:

Blood tests
These tests are is done to check for blood clotting and to monitor the levels of substances in the blood. Blood tests help assess the proportion of platelets, white blood cells, and red blood cells.

Biopsy
A biopsy is done to determine whether the tumor is benign or malignant.

Imaging tests
Imaging tests like CT scans or MRIs are done to get a clearer picture of the cancer size and spread.

Laparoscopy
This diagnostic test helps check the liver and the surrounding area.

Viral hepatitis
This test is done to check for hepatitis B and C infections.

4. Treatment of liver cancer
The treatment and chance of recovery depend on several factors, such as how well one’s liver is working, their general health, levels of alpha-fetoprotein, and the cancer stage. One may need one or a combination of methods for cancer treatment. Some prevalent treatment measures include

Total hepatectomy and liver transplant
It involves removing the complete liver and replacing it with a healthier one from a donor.

Partial hepatectomy
It involves removing only a tiny part of the organ.

Chemotherapy
It uses pharmaceuticals to kill cancer cells and curtail their reproduction.

Ablation therapy
It involves tumors destruction from the organ without taking them out. There are multiple methods to do it, such as microwave ablation, ethanol ablation, cryoablation, and radiofrequency ablation.

Immunotherapy
It involves using drugs to instruct the immune system to combat cancer cells.

Targeted therapy
Herein drugs help zero in on the cancer tissue or genes.

Local-regional therapy
Under this, beads are injected to release radiation into the blood vessel feeding the tumor. Herein. Chemotherapy drugs and beads work together to block the artery.

When one develops symptoms that suggest liver cancer, the individual must immediately consult a healthcare professional. These symptoms may be related to another benign disease or ailment, but never let them go undiagnosed. Early cancer detection betters one’s response to treatment.

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