Liver cancer also known as hepatic and primary hepatic cancer is a cancer that starts in the cells of the liver. Several types can form in the liver. Most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, which begins in the main type of liver cell (hepatocyte).
Cancer that spreads to the liver is more common than cancer that begins in the liver cells. Cancer that begins in another area of the body — such as the colon, lung or breast — and then spreads to the liver is called metastatic cancer instead of liver cancer.
Symptoms of liver cancer
- Losing weight without trying
- Loss of appetite
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- General weakness and fatigue
- White, chalky stools
- Abdominal swelling
- Yellow discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice)
Causes of Liver Cancer
- Cirrhosis due to chronic hepatitis B and C infection
- Fatty Liver
- Alcohol Abuse
- Exposure to aflatoxins – found in contaminated peanuts and dried chilies
- Ultrasound – it is often the first imaging that is being used
- CT Scan with contrast – produces detailed cross-sectional images of the body
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – [provides detailed images of soft tissues in the body. MRI scans are very helpful in looking at liver tumors.
- Serum Tumor Marker – Alpha-fetoprotein blood test (AFP) is used to screen for liver cancer
- Liver Biopsy – a thin needle will be inserted through the skin and into the liver to obtain a tissue sample
- Surgery – operations used to treat liver cancer include
- Surgery to remove the tumor – an operation to remove the liver cancer and a small portion of healthy liver tissue that surrounds it if the tumor is small and liver function is good
- Liver Transplant Surgery – the diseased liver will be removed and replaced with a healthy liver from a donor
- Localized treatments – it is for liver cancer that are administered directly to the cancer cells or the area surrounding the cancer cells. Options include
- Heating cancer cells – radiofrequency ablation uses electric current to heat and destroy cancer cells.
- Freezing cancer cells – cryoablation uses extreme cold to destroy cancer cells.
- Injecting alcohol to the tumor – pure alcohol is injected directly into tumors, either through the skin or during an operation. Alcohol causes the tumor cells to die
- Injecting chemotherapy drugs to the liver – chemoembolization is a type of chemotherapy treatment that supplies strong anti-cancer drugs directly to the liver
- Placing beads filled with radiation in the liver – tiny spheres that contain radiation will be placed directly in the liver so it can deliver radiation directly to the tumor
- Radiation Therapy – it uses high-powered energy from sources such a X-Rays and protons to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors.
- Targeted Drug Therapy – it is a drug treatment focused on specific abnormalities present within cancer cells. By blocking these abnormalities, targeted drug treatments can cause cancer cells to die.
- Chemotherapy – it uses drugs to kill rapidly growing cells, including cancer cells. It can be administered through a vein in the arm, in pill form or both.
Being diagnosed with any life-threatening illness can be devastating. Each person has their own coping mechanism when diagnosed with liver cancer and finding the right people to help you is a must.
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