Liver Cancer On Your Mind? Here’s Everything You Need To Know About It!

The liver is a large organ present just below the ribs in the right side of the upper part of the abdomen. The main role of the liver is to detoxify the body apart from breaking down medicines and food.

What is liver cancer?

Liver cancer is the cancer that originates in the liver. This is primary liver cancer. If the cancer spreads from other parts of the body to liver it is called metastatic liver cancer or secondary liver cancer. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most commonly occurring type of liver cancer.

What are the signs and symptoms of liver cancer?

Most often the patients do not show any symptoms of the disease in the early stages. However, in the later stages, the following can be seen to occur:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Swelling, pain in the upper abdomen
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Tiredness/fatigue
  • Yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin – Jaundice
  • Stools that appear white/chalky
  • Dark colour urine

How does liver cancer occur? What are the causes?

Many times, the cause of liver cancer is not known fully well. These are a list of probable causes/risk factors of the disease.

1. Liver cancer can be hereditary:

Birth defects, infection and damage caused by Hepatitis B and C can also cause liver cancer

2. Excessive alcohol consumption

Alcohol abuse can lead to cirrhosis of the liver which also acts as a precursor for the disease

3. Obesity

Fatty liver disease which causes an increased buildup of fat in the liver can also contribute to liver cancer

4. Smoking

When combined with excessive drinking, the chances of liver cancer increase.

5. Diabetes

People with diabetes are at high risk of acquiring the disease when compared to non-diabetics.

How is liver cancer diagnosed? What tests/examinations are done?

If your physician suspects that you may have the disease, he may suggest the following ot be done:

  • Blood tests for cancer
  • Liver Function test
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • Angiogram
  • Biopsy

Can liver cancer be prevented?

It is not entirely possible to prevent the disease. However, the following can be practised to reduce the risk of getting liver cancer:

  • Avoid alcohol and other practices that can lead to liver cirrhosis
  • Try and maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Get vaccinated for Hepatitis B.

If you have any pre-existing liver disease, or other conditions like obesity, diabetes, or if you consume alcohol, it is advisable to speak to your liver specialist about regular liver function tests and screenings.

What are the different treatment methods available for liver cancer?

Liver cancer can usually be treated. In determining liver cancer treatment methods many factors must be considered these include: 

  • Whether the patient has primary liver cancer or metastatic liver cancer
  • Size, type of liver cancer detected
  • Location of the cancer
  • Whether the cancer has spread
  • How good is the patient’s health condition

Procedures may include:

  • Surgery to remove the cancer
  • Liver transplant from suitable donor
  • Chemotherapy
  • Thermal ablation – using heat to destroy the cancer
  • Immunotherapy
  • Targeted therapy
  • Radiotherapy
  • If you have any questions regarding this illness, it is always advisable to schedule regular health check ups and consult the best liver specialist in Chennai