The liver is a vital organ that aids in digestion and keeps the body nourished and free of toxins and harmful substances. Because all the blood passes through the liver, it’s unusually susceptible to cancer cell development. While primary cancer can originate in the liver, most liver cancers are secondary or metastatic, meaning they start elsewhere in body and spread to the liver. In primary liver cancer, hepatitis is an important risle factor.
What are the symptoms of liver cancer?
Most patients don’t experience any signs or symptoms in the early stages of liver cancer. When symptoms do appear, they are likely to include:
- Pain, discomfort and tenderness in the abdomen
- Yellowing of the skin and the eyes
- White and chalky stools
- Loss of appetite
- Sudden weight loss
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weakness and fatigue
- Fullness and lump in abdomen
Liver cancer is easily treatable if diagnosed in the early stages. So if you experience any of these symptoms, you should consult with your doctor for prompt evaluation.
What are the risk factors of liver cancer?
Liver cancer happens when liver cells start mutating, but sometimes it can be caused by a history of liver damage and chronic hepatitis infections. Other factors that are known to increase the risk of developing liver cancer include:
Screening & diagnosis:
- Ageing as liver cancer is more common in people over age 50
- Hepatitis B or C infection can cause severe liver damage that can lead to cancer. But you can prevent hepatitis B and C by using protection during sexual intercourse and getting vaccination for hepatitis B.
- Alcohol consumption can cause liver damage and increase your risk for liver cancer.
- Cirrhosis is a liver disorder in which scarred tissue replaces healthy tissue in the liver and may lead to numerous complications, including liver cancer.
- Exposure to aflatoxin produced by mould that grows on peanuts, grains, and corn can cause liver cancer.
- Diabetes and obesity can cause long-term liver problems and increase the risk for liver cancer.
While screening for early detection of primary liver cancer is not performed routinely, it is considered for people at high risk for the disease. Our doctors begin by checking the patient’s medical history and then perform a physical examination. If they suspect cancer, they may recommend several tests to rule out other causes of liver dysfunction. These tests may include:
- Blood tests to measure levels of proteins, liver enzymes, and bilirubin in the blood and determine liver function.
- AFP test to check for cancer markers in the blood, such as Alpha-fetoprotein.
- Imaging Tests for the detailed images of the affected area and determine the tumour’s position and size.
- Biopsy to make a conclusive diagnosis of liver cancer. Our doctor will insert a thin needle into the liver to obtain tissue and check it for cancerous cells. They may also perform a laparoscopy to check the liver’s condition and perform a more precise biopsy.
Liver cancer treatment depends on liver function, the stage of cancer and the levels of alpha-fetoprotein. Based on these factors, our doctors will recommend the most-effective treatment option for liver cancer, which can include:
Our doctors can implement various approaches to surgically remove entire cancer so it doesn’t relapse in the future. These approaches can be:
- Hepatectomy in which the surgeon removes either a portion of the liver or all of the liver. The remaining healthy tissue in the liver will regrow and replace the missing part.
- Liver transplant in which the surgeon removes the damaged liver and replaces it with a healthy liver from a suitable donor. However, it’s only viable for a small percentage of patients whose cancer hasn’t spread to other organs.
- Ablation in which the surgeon destroys the cancer cells through heat or ethanol injections administered directly to the cancer cells or the area surrounding them.
Embolisation is a procedure that injects substances directly into an artery in the liver to block or reduce the blood flow to a tumor in the liver. Embolisation can be used for people with tumors that are too large to be treated with ablation and who also have adequate liver function. It can also be used with ablation.
Our doctors will use a group of drugs to stop cancer growth. These drugs can be delivered through a vein or a catheter to treat advanced liver cancer.