Liver cancer is among the most severe types of liver damage. This cancer starts in the cells of the liver. There can be multiple types of cancer that can form in this organ. Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of such cancer. It starts in a type of liver cell known as hepatocyte. Hepatoblastoma and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma are some other types of liver cancers, but they are relatively uncommon. Due to this condition’s high degree of severity, proper liver cancer treatment is vital for all patients.
Apart from liver cancer, patients might also suffer from metastatic cancer of the liver. Such cancer starts in some other area of the body and subsequently spreads to the liver. Usually, such cancers begin from the breast, colon, or lungs.
Signs of liver cancer you can’t ignore
People must visit a liver specialist for a proper checkup and diagnosis if they experience the symptom of liver cancer. Getting diagnosed early will help people start their liver cancer treatment in time before it majorly deteriorates their health.
- Itchy Skin: Having itchy skin can be an indication of obstructive jaundice. Apart from liver cancer, it can be an indication of stones in the bile duct, primary biliary cirrhosis, or cancer of the bile duct. While having itchy skin due to seasonal changes is common for many, the persistence of this condition might be a cause for concern.
- Spider Angiomas: If you find small capillaries under the skin of your legs and face, then going for a liver checkup is important. These capillaries are usually shaped like a spider and can be caused due to higher levels of estrogen. This might imply the improper functioning of the liver regarding hormone metabolism.
- Frequent bruising and bleeding: Bleeding easily or getting bruised up frequently is a sign of an unhealthy liver. Such a situation typically takes place due to the lack of proteins required for blood clotting.
- Swelling of feet: Accumulation of fluid in the legs is a sign of chronic liver disease.
- Swelling in the abdomen: Many liver cancer patients face pain and swelling in the upper right region of their abdomen. Apart from liver cancer, this situation can be caused due to pancreas or gallbladder problems as well.
- Vomiting of blood: Blood vomiting may develop due to cirrhosis of the liver. Patients facing this issue require care.
- Weight: Loss of appetite and weight loss is a symptom common to multiple ailments, including varied viruses and cancers. While a drop in the weight scale may not indicate cancer, people having other symptoms alongside weight loss should go for a checkup.
While all the above-mentioned signs may not always be an indication of liver cancer, it is better to be safe than sorry. Timely diagnosis and early liver cancer treatment can go a long way in ensuring that the patients have a healthy future ahead of them. Usually, both blood tests and imaging tests are done for liver cancer diagnosis. At times, the doctors may even remove a piece of the liver tissue for biopsy to confirm their diagnosis.
After liver cancer is diagnosed, the doctor shall take steps to determine the extent of cancer. There are varied types of staging tests used by them to identify the location of cancer and its size. Common imaging tests used in this process include CTs, MRIs, and bone scans.
Risk factors of liver cancer
- Chronic infection with HBV or HCV: The risks of developing liver cancer are relatively higher among people having chronic infection with hepatitis C or hepatitis B virus.
- Cirrhosis is an irreversible condition due to which scar tissues form in the liver, preventing the organ from functioning properly.
- Particular inherited liver diseases: Wilson’s disease and hemochromatosis are certain genetic disorders that can augment the risk of liver cancer.
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease: This condition refers to the accumulation of fat in the organ, which ultimately increases the risk of liver cancer.
- Excessive alcohol consumption: Liver damage, including cancer, is a major risk associated with high alcohol abuse.
People at high risk must especially keep a lookout for liver cancer symptoms.
Treating liver cancer
There are several options for liver cancer treatment pursued by doctors today, depending on the extent of damage, health of the patients, and more. For many people with early-stage liver cancer, liver transplant surgery is done as a life-saving treatment. Here, the diseased liver is removed and replaced with a healthy liver from a donor. Alternatively, cancer patients may undergo localized treatments, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, chemotherapy, and so on.
Taking the hepatitis B vaccine and taking steps to prevent liver cirrhosis and hepatitis C can prove to be fruitful in reducing the risk of developing liver cancer. People must especially be proactive about controlling their alcohol intake, as it is the cause of many severe liver conditions.