Liver Cancer: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment
The liver is one of the most vital organs which filters the blood coming from the digestive tract, before circulating it to the rest of the body. It detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. The liver also synthesizes proteins required for blood clotting and other functions.
The liver can be affected either by primary liver cancer which arises in the liver, or secondary or metastatic cancer, which originates elsewhere in the body. Primary liver cancer tends to occur when the liver is damaged in the form of cirrhosis (a scarring condition of the liver), certain birth defects, alcohol abuse, chronic infection with diseases such as hepatitis B and C, hemochromatosis, obesity and fatty liver disease amongst others.
- A hard lump on the right side just below the rib cage
- Swollen abdomen and discomfort in the upper abdomen (right side)
- Pain near the right shoulder blade or in the back
- Easy bruising or bleeding
- Unusual tiredness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss for no reason
Having any of these symptoms does not mean it is cancer, but if one or more of them is noticed for more than 2 weeks, then a doctor must be seen and an immediate health screening is a must.
Liver cancer as staged by Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) staging system is
Stage 0: Very early
Stage A: Early
Stage B: Intermediate
Stage C: Advanced
Stage D: End-Stage
Treatment of stages 0, A and B includes partial hepatectomy, total hepatectomy and liver transplant. The tumor can be ablated using radio frequency ablation, microwave therapy, percutaneous ethanol injection and cryoablation. Treatment of stages C and D includes embolization therapy and is performed by using either transarterial chemoembolization (TACE), Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA), Transarterial Radioembolization or external beam radiotherapy with high dose focused conformal technology (e.g. cyberknife)methods.
Liver Cancer is completely curable if detected early. Liver cirrhosis and viral hepatitis ca be detected early by regular health screenings. An integrated approach of a multidisciplinary team is the best way to conquer liver cancer.