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Liver Cancer

Liver cancer is cancer that begins in the cells of your liver. Metastatic cancer i.e. cancer that begins in another area of the body and spreads to the liver is relatively more common than cancer that begins in the liver itself. However, we can categorize liver cancer into three categories:

  • Benign Liver Tumors – These tumors do not grow into the nearby tissues and do not spread to distant sites and are usually treated with surgeries.
  • Primary liver cancer – It is cancer that starts within the liver itself
  • Secondary (Metastatic) Liver Cancer – It is cancer that begins in another area of the body and spreads to the liver

Causes of Liver Cancer

  • Cirrhosis – In this condition, scar tissues develop in your liver and replace the healthy liver cells. This condition is irreversible and happens because of alcohol abuse
  • Chronic Hepatitis B or C – These infections also lead to cirrhosis which is a leading cause of liver cancer
  • Fatty liver disease – This happens when too much fat builds up in the liver cells
  • Tobacco – Smoking can increase the chances of developing liver cancer
  • Type 2 Diabetes – People who have Type 2 diabetes are usually overweight and being overweight is linked to having other liver conditions like fatty liver which make one more prone to developing liver cancer
  • Hemochromatosis – It is a condition where the body absorbs too much iron from the food. This iron can settle in the tissues and even in the liver and when this happens, it can damage the liver and cause cancer or cirrhosis

Symptoms of Liver Cancer

  • Unintended weight loss
  • Jaundice
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Enlarged liver
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fluid build up in the abdomen
  • Unwillingness to eat

Prevention of Liver Cancer

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Avoid smoking and drinking
  • Timely treatment for Hepatitis
  • Get enough protein
  • Treat inherited diseases that increase the risk of developing liver cancer

Diagnosis of Liver Cancer

  • Blood tests – Blood test might reveal liver function abnormalities
  • Imaging tests – Ultrasound, CT, and MRIs might be done to examine the liver more closely and look for abnormalities
  • Biopsy – It includes the removal of a piece of liver tissue to examine it in a lab for a definitive cancer diagnosis

Treatment of Liver Cancer

  • Surgery – The doctor might recommend an operation to remove the liver cancer and a small portion of healthy tissues that surrounds cancer if the tumor is not too large and your liver functions well. However, in some cases, the doctor might recommend a liver transplant. The diseased liver is replaced by a healthy liver from a donor’s. This is usually considered an option for early-stage liver cancers
  • Cryoablation – It is the use of extremely cold temperatures to destroy cancer cells. In this procedure, liquid nitrogen is passed on directly to liver tumors and the cancer cells are frozen
  • Radiofrequency Ablation – This works in the direct opposite way of cryoablation. It aims at using electric current to heat and destroy cancer cells. The doctor inserts one or more needles into incisions in the abdomen. When these needles reach the tumor cells, they’re heated with an electric current and they destroy those cells
  • Radiation Therapy – Radiation therapy uses high-energy radiation like X-rays and protons for killing the cancer cells or halting their growth. It is sometimes also used to reduce the symptoms of liver cancer that has spread to other areas of the body
  • Targeted Therapy – This treatment uses drugs that are designed specifically to target the tumor cells present in the liver. This therapy causes less harm to the normal cells than chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy – This treatment uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells. It does this either by killing the cancer cells or by preventing their further division. It can be done either intravenously or orally. The drugs enter the bloodstream and reach the cancer cells across the body
  • Immunotherapy – It uses the body’s immune system to fight off cancer cells. Substances made in labs or by the body itself are used to boost and restore the body’s immune system and use as a defense against the cancer cells