Liver cancer also called hepatic cancer, is cancer that starts in the liver named as primary liver cancer. Liver cancer that has migrated to the liver from other organs by metastasis is called secondary liver cancer.
What is Liver Cancer?
The liver is one of the largest organs of the human body is placed below the right lung under the ribcage. It has two lobes, right and left. Cancer that starts in the liver is stated as primary liver cancer. Most common type of primary cancer that found in the liver is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and affects male more than female. HCC may have different growth pattern:
- In some patients, a large single tumor is formed in or on the liver and later spread to other parts of the liver.
- In some other patients, small cancer nodules are formed throughout the liver and mostly found in patients with cirrhosis of the liver.
There are other types of liver cancers named intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma, which are not common.
Secondary liver cancer, which is originated from other organs but metastasized and spread to the liver; the name of cancer is described after the name of that particular originating organ.
What are the causes of the Liver Cancer?
Like any type of cancer in any organ, the cause of liver cancer is not clear. But it is known that like other cancer, liver cancer also occurs when cells of liver start mutation in their DNA and become malignant. However, following risk factors increases the probability of happening of liver cancer:
- Cirrhosis of liver increases the chance liver cancer.
- Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) and C virus (HCV) can increase the risk of liver cancer.
- Uncontrolled diabetes with fatty liver may have the risk of occurring liver cancer.
- An accumulation of fat in the liver and diseases like hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease increase the chance of liver cancer.
- Crops, peanuts etc., if stored poorly, contaminates with aflatoxins. Exposure to aflatoxins risks a serious concern for liver cancer.
- Consuming more than a moderate amount of alcohol daily can risk to liver cancer.
What are the symptoms of Liver Cancer?
Liver cancer does not show any symptom at its early stage. When it grows to advance stage the following signs and symptoms may appear:
- Weight loss without effort
- Pain in upper abdomen
- Loss of hunger
- Fatigue and general weakness
- Vomiting and nausea
- Sign of jaundice, i.e., yellow discoloration of skin and eyeball
- Abdominal swelling
- Chalky white stool
What are the treatments for Liver Cancer?
Unfortunately, symptoms of liver cancer do not appear at the early stage and results to little chance for curing the disease. However, doctors can reduce the growth of tumor in the liver and increase the life expectancy during the following treatment:
- At the early stage of liver cancer, surgery of small tumor and even a small portion of the liver are removed for survival.
- Liver transplantation when the tumour meets certain selection criteria
- By ablative therapy, the substance like alcohol is directly injected into the tumor for treatment. Radio waves and lasers are also used.
- Radiotherapy and chemotherapy are also the options for treatment of liver cancer.