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Liver Cancer :

Liver cancer is cancer that begins in the cells of your liver. The cancer that arises in the liver is called primary liver cancer. 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 or secondary liver cancer.

Primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) tends to occur in livers damaged by birth defects, alcohol abuse, or chronic infection with diseases such as hepatitis B and C, hemochromatosis (a hereditary disease associated with too much iron in the liver), and cirrhosis.

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Risk Factor :

  • Sex :- Men are more likely to get hepatocellular carcinoma than women.
  • Weight :- Obesity can increase the risk for hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • Anabolic steroid use :- Male hormones abused by athletes to increase muscle can slightly increase liver cancer risk with long-term use.
  • History of diabetes :- People with this blood sugar disorder have a greater risk of liver cancer than those who don't have diabetes. This is likely due to the link between diabetes and fatty liver disease.
  • Inherited metabolic diseases :- Diseases that disrupt the normal metabolism of the body have been shown to increase your risk of liver cancer.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption :- Consuming more than a moderate amount of alcohol daily over many years can lead to irreversible liver damage and increase your risk of liver cancer.
  • Chronic infection with HBV or HCV :- Chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) increases your risk of liver cancer.
  • Cirrhosis :-This progressive and irreversible condition causes scar tissue to form in your liver and increases your chances of developing liver cancer.

People with certain hereditary and/or rare diseases may be prone to developing liver cancer. These include:

  • Hemochromatosis
  • Glycogen storage disease
  • Advanced PBC
  • Tyrosinemia

Signs and symptoms :

People may feel to be fit in the early stages of liver cancer, but it may risk their life in the later stages. If a person experience chronic pain in the Liver, they must consult the doctor about the symptoms immediately. Delay in the diagnosis may lead to the threat of Liver Cancer.

Symptoms of Liver Cancer include:

  • Pain on the right side of the upper abdomen or back and shoulder
  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Fever

Diagnosis :

The diagnosis of Liver cancer is done with the help of special medical tests or through a physical examination which may include CT scans, ultrasounds, and MRI.

Sometimes doctors go for liver biopsy, a procedure in which a small parts of liver tissue is removed and examined to confirm the diagnosis of liver cancer. Doctors often do genetic testing of the cancer, which helps to give the best treatment for the patient.

Stages of Liver Cancer :

To help guide treatment and define the outlook of liver cancer, healthcare professionals divide its progression into four stages:

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  • Stage 1: The tumour remains in the liver and has not spread to another organ or location.
  • Stage 2: Either there are several small tumours that all remain in the liver or one tumour that has reached a blood vessel.
  • Stage 3: There are various large tumours or one tumour that has reached a main, large blood vessel.
  • Stage 4: The cancer has metastasized, meaning it has spread to other parts of the body.

Once a doctor has diagnosed and identified the stage of cancer, a person will start to receive treatment.

Treatment of Liver Cancer :

There are various Cancer treatment recourses available for people suffering from Liver cancer. Treatments suggested by the Doctors are based on the information acquired through medical test results like the type of cancer, current stage of cancer etc.

Liver cancer treatment depends on:
  • The liver's condition and the severity of cirrhosis
  • The size, location, and number of tumours
  • Whether the cancer has remained within the liver or has spread outside the liver
  • The overall health of the patient and other risk factors for liver cancer

If the rest of the liver is healthy and the cancer has not spread, then treatment options may include:

  • Liver Transplant (replacement of the liver)
  • Partial hepatectomy or segmentectomy (surgery to remove a part of the liver or to remove a tumour from the liver)
  • Radiofrequency ablation (inserting a thin probe through the skin and into the tumour to heat and destroy the cancer cells)

Sometimes the cancer may be spread within the liver. In such case the other treatments may include:

  • Chemoembolization, Bland embolization or radioembolization of the blood vessels near the tumour (procedures to block the blood supply to the tumour, either with or without the use of anti-cancer medications)
  • Radiation therapy (high-energy x-rays) to destroy cancer cells.

Doctors may prescribe some of the following treatments if it is still within the liver or if the cancer has spread outside of the liver, and not responding to any of the above treatments.

  • Immunotherapy (a type of treatment that support your immune system to fight against cancer)
  • Oral (by mouth) anti-cancer medications
  • Clinical trials (scientific studies to test new medications not yet available to the public.

A surgical resection (Liver transplant) can cure Liver Cancer, but only for few patients. Nevertheless, scientists are researching with various challenging new treatments which could support to prolong the lives of patients suffering from Liver Cancer.