Liver Cancer

What is liver cancer?

Liver cancer is a cancer that develops in the cells of your liver.  Your liver is an organ that is similar to a football in size and located in the upper right part of your abdomen, below your diaphragm and above your stomach.

Several types of cancer can occur in the liver.  The most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, which begins in the main liver cell (hepatocyte).  Other types of liver cancer, such as intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma, are less common.

Not all cancers affecting the liver are considered liver cancer.  If cancer begins in another area of the body – such as colon, lung or breast – and spreads to the liver, it is called metastatic cancer rather than liver cancer.  This type of cancer is named after the organ where it originates – like metastatic colon cancer to identify cancer that developed in the colon and spread to the liver.  Cancer that spread to the liver is more common than cancer that develops in the hepatic cells.


What are signs and symptoms of liver cancer?

No sign or symptom is manifested in most people with early stage primary liver cancer. When signs and symptoms emerge, they may include:

  • Unintentional weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upper abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • General weakness and tiredness
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Yellow discoloration of your skin and white zones of your eyes (jaundice)
  • White, chalky stool

What are the risk factors of liver cancer?

Factors that increase the risk of primary liver cancer are as follows:

  • Chronic infection with HBV or HCV
  • Cirrhosis
  • Specific inherited liver diseases
  • Diabetes
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Exposure to aflatoxins
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

What can be done to prevent liver cancer?

Reduce your risk of cirrhosis

Cirrhosis is liver damage and increases the risk of liver cancer. You can reduce your risk of cirrhosis by:

  • Drinking alcohol in moderate amount, if at all
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Being cautious with chemicals.
  • Get a Hepatitis B vaccine
  • Take measures to prevent Hepatitis C

How is liver cancer diagnosed?

Tests and procedures used to diagnose liver cancer include the following:

  • Blood workup
  • Imaging Tests
  • Sampling the liver tissue for testing

What are treatment methods of liver cancer?

Treatment of primary liver cancer depends on the spread (stage) of your cancer, as well as your age, overall health state and personal preferences.

  • Surgery performed to remove the tumor
  • Liver transplant surgery
  • Localized treatments
  • Radiotherapy
  • Targeted medical therapy
  • Supportive (palliative) care

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