Know the warning signs of liver cancer
Your liver does a lot for you, like filter your blood and break down food. It is one of your largest and most important organs. When you have liver cancer, some cells there grow out of control and form a tumour. That can affect liver functions.
Most people do not notice any signs of liver cancer early on. Some may have the following symptoms:
• Feel full quickly or not want to eat
• Lump your right rib cage
• Feel pain on the upper right side of your belly or near your right shoulder
• Have an upset stomach
• Have swelling in your belly
• Feel tired and weak
• Lose weight
• Have white, chalky poop and dark pee
• Notice a yellowish colour in your skin and the whites of your eyes
Certain diseases can make you more likely to get liver cancer, including:
• Hepatitis B and C virus, Cirrhosis, Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, Hereditary hemochromatosis.
Alcohol, obesity, diabetes raise your chances. One leading cause of cirrhosis is drinking large amounts of alcohol over many years, leading to liver cirrhosis. In addition, suppose you are very overweight or have diabetes or a condition called metabolic syndrome. In that case, you are at higher risk of getting nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, leading to liver cancer.
Some of these can cause liver cancer, including Aflatoxins, Arsenic, Thorium dioxide, Vinyl chloride.
The most common type of liver cancer is Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) - it happens in the primary cells of your liver, called hepatocytes. HCC usually causes one tumour that grows larger over time. But if you have both cirrhosis and HCC, you are likely to have many small tumours spread throughout your liver.
Bile duct cancer happens in the tubes that carry bile, a fluid that breaks down foods out of your liver. This is the second most common kind of liver cancer.
Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma are cancers found in your liver's blood vessels. Both are rare and sometimes caused by toxins. Hepatoblastoma is sporadic cancer that happens mostly in children under age four.
The doctor may recommend biopsy, blood tests, imaging tests including ultrasound, CT scan, MRI, or an angiogram.
The stages tell you how far your cancer has spread:
Stage I: One tumour that has not spread anywhere else
Stage II: One tumour that is dispersed into blood vessels, or more than one tumour, but all smaller than two inches
Stage III: One tumour that is spread to major blood vessels or nearby organs, or more than one tumour and at least one of them is larger than two inches
Stage IV: Cancer has spread to other body parts.
Treatment for liver cancer depends on the stage and your age, overall health, and the health of your liver. If cancer has not spread and you do not have other liver problems, you may have:
• Surgery to remove the tumour
• Liver transplant: You get a new liver from a donor, which is not common.
• Ablation therapy tries to kill cancer cells through alcohol, freezing, heat or electrical pulses.
• Embolisation therapy: With embolisation therapy, a thin tube goes into your thigh and hepatic artery. The doctor puts a substance into the tube to block blood flow and starve the tumour of nutrients. Chemotherapy drugs or radiation beads also may be put in through the tube.
• Targeted therapy: Targeted therapy uses drugs designed to attack cancer cells based on those differences. This may keep tumours from making the blood vessels they need to survive, or it may stop tumour cells from dividing so they cannot grow.
You may not prevent liver cancer, but you can lower your chances of getting it.
• Get the hepatitis B vaccine.
• Stay a healthy weight through the food you eat and exercise.
• Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
• Do not use intravenous (IV) drugs -- if you do, use clean needles.
• Get tattoos and piercings only at safe, clean shops.
• Practice safe sex.
A healthy lifestyle can lower the chances of getting liver cancer.