ABSTRACT – Liver is an important organ which helps in removing toxins from the body. Cancer that starts from...
Liver Cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the liver. Some cancers develop outside the liver and spread to the area.
The liver, which is located below the right lung and under the ribcage, is one of the largest organs of the human body. It has a range of functions, including removing toxins from the body, and is crucial to survival.
It consists of malignant hepatic tumors in or on the liver.
It is extremely serious, and symptoms are often not obvious until a later stage.
The signs and symptoms of liver cancer tend not to be noticed until the cancer reaches an advanced stage.
It may trigger the following effects:
unexplained weight loss
an enlarged liver
Staging a cancer allows a doctor to decide the course of treatment.
It is categorized into four stages:
Stage I: The tumor is in the liver and has not spread to another organ or location.
Stage II: Either there are several small tumors that all remain in the liver, or one tumor that has reached a blood vessel.
Stage III: There are various large tumors or one tumor that has reached the main blood vessels. Cancer may have also reached the gallbladder.
Stage IV: The cancer has metastasized. This means that it has spread to other parts of the body.
Once the stage has been found, a course of treatment can begin.
For people who have early-stage can be treated, only surgery that removes the tumors completely will lead to a chance of recovery.
Surgical options include the following:
When the tumor is small and occupies a small part of the liver, that part of the liver can be surgically removed.
However, in the U.S., many people with this cancer have cirrhosis. This means that a hepatectomy needs to leave behind enough healthy tissue for the liver to perform its necessary functions after the procedure.
It may be decided during surgery that this will not be the case, and the procedure may be canceled halfway through if the risk to the patient is deemed to be too great.
Partial hepatectomy is only considered for people with otherwise healthy liver function. This procedure is often not an option, as the cancer has spread to other parts of the liver or other organs in the body.
Liver surgery of this scale can lead to excessive bleeding and blood-clotting issues, as well as infections and pneumonia.
Candidates for a liver transplant cannot have a tumor larger than 5 cm or several tumors larger than 3 cm. The risk of the cancer returning is too great to justify a procedure as risky as a transplant if the tumor is larger than this.
With a successful transplant, the risk of cancer returning is greatly reduced, and normal function can be restored.
However, the immune system can ‘reject’ the new organ, attacking it as a foreign body, and there are limited opportunities to carry out transplants. Only around 6,500 livers are available each year, and many are used to treat diseases other than liver cancer.
The drugs that suppress the immune system to accommodate a new liver can also lead to serious infections and, on occasion, even the spreading of already metastasized tumors.
[Diabetes marked in book]
People with diabetes who drink excessive amounts of alcohol face an increased risk of liver cancer.
The exact cause of liver cancer is not known.
However, most cases are linked to scarring of the liver, also referred to as cirrhosis.
According to the American Cancer Society, hepatitis C is the most common cause of this cancer in the U.S.
People with both hepatitis B or C have a significantly higher risk of developing this cancer than other healthy individuals, as both forms of the disease can result in cirrhosis.
Some inherited liver diseases, such as hemochromatosis, cause cirrhosis and also increase the risk of cancer.
Other risk factors for liver cancer development include:
Type 2 diabetes: People with diabetes, especially if they also have hepatitis, or regularly consume a lot of alcohol, are more likely to develop liver cancer.
Family history: If a person’s mother, father, brother, or sister has had liver cancer, the person has a higher risk than others of developing the cancer themselves.
Heavy alcohol use: Consuming alcohol regularly and in excessive amounts is one of the leading causes of cirrhosis in the U.S.
Long-term exposure to aflatoxins: An aflatoxin is a substance made by a fungus. It can be found in moldy wheat, groundnuts, corn, nuts, soybeans, and peanuts. The risk of liver cancer only increases following long-term exposure. This is less of a problem in industrialized nations.
Low immunity: People with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS have a risk of liver cancer that is five times greater than other healthy individuals.
Obesity: Being obese raises the risk of developing many cancers, including liver cancer.
Gender: A higher percentage of males get liver cancer compared to females. Some experts believe this is not due to gender but lifestyle characteristics. On average, males tend to smoke and drink alcohol more than females.
Smoking: Individuals with hepatitis B or C face a higher risk of liver cancer if they smoke.
Arsenic: People who rely on water wells that contain naturally-occurring levels of the toxin arsenic may eventually have a significantly higher risk of developing several conditions or diseases, including liver cancer.
High-risk individuals for liver cancer should have regular screenings for liver cancer. Liver cancer, if not diagnosed early, is much more difficult to cure. The only way to know whether you have liver cancer early on is through screening because symptoms are either slight or nonexistent.
This includes people with hepatitis B and C, patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis, and those that have cirrhosis as a result of hemochromatosis.