What is Liver Cancer?
Located between the chest and the abdomen, liver is the largest organ of the body. It is one of the most significant organs of the body without which no one can survive. Therefore, before discussing about the Liver Cancer, let’s have brief discussion about liver.
Shaped like pyramid, liver is the organ with the two lobes (right lobe and left lobe). This is the only organ that receives blood from two sources; blood received from the hepatic artery is rich in oxygen and the blood received from the portal vein is nutrient-rich blood.
So, liver has very significant roles to play:
- Provides energy by transforming sugar and fat into energy
- It produces bile that helps to dissolve fat and food gets easily digested
- It produces proteins and chemicals required for the body
- It stores nutrients
- At the time of injury, it helps in blood clotting
- It breaks down some substances such as alcohol and drugs; likewise, waste products get rid of
Besides, it has unique feature that is – it can function even in a condition when small part of it is working. It can repair itself very fast. However, the cancer in liver is such kind of problem that not only damages it, but also takes patient’s life if proper treatment is not given on time.
Liver Cancer: The cancer (basically tumour) when develops in the liver, it is known as liver cancer. Liver cancer is a fatal disease; if it is not diagnosed and treated on time, then it can damage major functioning of the body and finally takes life.
Types of Liver Cancer:
Basically, liver cancer is categorized as:
- Primary Liver Cancer
- Secondary Liver Cancer
Primary Liver Cancer:
When the cancer (tumor) starts in the liver and remains in the nascent stage, it is known as primary liver cancer. It is of following type:
- Cholangiocarcinoma: It originates in the bile ducts and also known as bile duct cancer.
- Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC): It originates in hepatocytes (Liver cell) and also known as hepatoma. This is the most common one.
- Angiosarcoma: It originates in the blood vessels. It is the rarest type of liver cancer that normally seen in the patients who are aged above 70.
Causes and Risk Factors of Primary Liver Cancer:
Many of the liver cancers normally caused by chronic (long term) infection by the hepatitis B and C viruses. However, some other risk factors are:
- Type TWO diabetes
- Fatty liver disease or other genetic disorders such as haemochromatosis etc
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Eating excessive junk food and other high fat diet
- It is more common in male than female
- Hereditary problem
- Exposure to specific obnoxious chemical substances (e.g. arsenic, vinyl chloride, and aflatoxins)
Liver cancer at primary stage is not much fatal, provided it is diagnosed and given proper treatment. However, if it is not diagnosed and treated, then it starts spreading in other parts of the body.
Secondary Liver Cancer:
Secondary liver cancer is the cancer that actually started in the other part of the body, but it spread into liver. For example, cancers started in the stomach, breast, ovary, lung, and kidney if not treated properly on time, then it can spread to liver as well.
Sign and Symptoms of Liver Cancer:
At primary stage, it is very difficult to identify (without thorough medical checkup), as primary liver cancer does not bring any changes; however, later patient can notice following symptoms:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Severe abdominal pain
- Appetite loss
- Nausea feeling
- Weight loss
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Pale bowel motions
- Swelling of the abdomen
- Swollen of the veins on the belly that can be seen through the skin
Some other hormonal effects are:
- Enlarging the breast (in female)
- Shrinking of the testicles (in men)
- High cholesterol levels
Diagnosis of Liver Cancer:
Along with the physical checkup and medical history; doctor also does following check up to diagnose the liver cancer (depending upon the requirements):
- Blood Checkup
- CT Scan
- MRI Scan
- PET- ST Scan
- Fine Needle Aspiration
Treatment of Liver Cancer:
Depending upon the stage and condition of liver cancer doctors take decision regarding the choosing proper type of treatment. For example, the most common treatment that doctors prefer for the primary type of liver cancer is Tumor Ablation.
Tumor ablation is done using heat (i.e. radiofrequency of microwave). Sometimes, if doctors find the problem is more severe, then doctors choose Chemotherapy.
Treatment for the Secondary Liver Cancer:
For the secondary type of liver cancer, doctors choose any one or couple of treatments from the following:
- Ablation or Embolization
- Targeted therapy
- Selective Internal Radiation Therapy
- Endoscopic Stent Placement
- Palliative Treatment
- Biological therapy
Liver Transplantation: In a condition when liver has two or three tumors, the only solution to save the life of patient is removal of entire liver and place a new liver (taken from other person) commonly known as liver transplantation.
Liver transplantation is not a normal transplantation, there is very scarce of liver and waiting period is very long. On the other hand, before taking the liver of other person, there are many factors that need to be considered. For example, medical history of the person, donor’s smoking and drinking habit, blood group, etc.
Preventive Measures for Liver Cancer:
Following are some of the preventive measures that help to keep you healthy:
- Balanced and healthy food
- Avoid smoking and drugs
- Avoid drinking
- Regular Physical exercise including yoga.
These preventive measures are not conclusive, as it is very general kind of preventive measures. On the other hand, since, liver cancer’s causes are little known or not known, therefore, it is difficult to take some preventive measures in advance.
Therefore, take regular check-up of your body, do not ignore even a minor health problem, get it diagnosed properly.