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Oncology & Hematology

Liver cancer is cancer that develops anywhere in the liver. It occurs when abnormal cells multiply faster than healthy cells.

Hepatocellular carcinoma, which originates within the bile ducts in persons with chronic liver disease, is the most prevalent type of liver cancer. Hepatoblastoma and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma are also other forms of liver cancer.

Cancer that originates elsewhere in the body then spreads to the liver is more common than cancer that begins in the liver. This type of cancer is known as metastatic cancer.

Causes of Liver Cancer

Research shows that there’s no clear cause for liver cancer disease. However, doctors have established that cirrhosis is a common factor in liver cancer. The most frequent causes of liver cancer are recurrent infections with hepatitis B or viruses.

Other risk factors for liver cancer may include:

  • History of diabetes: According to studies, diabetes and liver cancer may be related. This is because of how diabetes and fatty liver disease are related.
  • Anabolic steroid use: Long-term usage of male hormones that athletes use to gain more muscle can modestly raise the risk of developing liver cancer.
  • Inherited metabolic disease: There is evidence that certain illnesses raise an individual’s risk of developing liver cancer by interfering with the body’s regular metabolism.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to get hepatocellular carcinoma than women
  • Overweight/obesity

Stages of Liver Cancer

Stage 1: This is when there is a tumor in the liver that hasn’t spread to other organs

Stage 2: At this stage, there’s either one large tumor that has spread to the blood vessels, or there is more than one smaller tumor that is only in the liver and hasn’t spread

Stage 3: At this stage cancer has spread from the liver to the blood arteries, lymph nodes, or other organs, and there are multiple tumors

Stage 4: Cancer has spread to other parts of the body

Signs and Symptoms of Liver Cancer

Some of the common signs and symptoms of liver cancer include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin)
  • Feeling of fullness after a meal
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Swelling of the abdomen
  • Accumulation of fluid in the abdomen
  • Itching

Diagnosis of Liver Cancer

For doctors to have an effective diagnosis of liver cancer, they recommend that the patient undergo a number of tests. These include:

  • Physical exam
  • Ultrasound to visualize the internal organs
  • CT scan to capture precise images of the body’s organs
  • Blood tests determine the liver’s function and the time it takes for the blood to clot
  • A test for the liver function that gauges the liver’s production of certain enzymes using a liver biopsy, whereby a small piece of liver is removed for analysis

Treatment of Liver Cancer

In the treatment of liver cancer, a multidisciplinary team collaborates to develop the patient’s overall treatment strategy. The available treatments following a conclusive diagnosis will depend on:

  • Stage of the cancer
  • How far the cancer has spread
  • How quickly the cancer is spreading
  • Preferences and general health of the patient
  • Liver injury to a certain extent

In a situation where a tumor is realized in an early stage and the patient’s liver is working, the doctors aim to try and remove the cancerous cells to preserve the function of the liver. This may include chemotherapy and surgery. The treatment of symptoms and side effects is also part of the care plan, which is crucial in the management of cancer.

An alternative treatment strategy could be recommended by doctors which may involve a liver transplant if the liver is not functioning well or if liver cancer is discovered at a later stage.


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