Liver cancer, as the name suggests, is cancer that begins in the liver. Some cancers grow outside the liver and spread to the organ. But this term only describes cancer that starts in the liver. The liver is located under the right lung, just below the rib cage. It is one of the largest organs in the human body and has many important functions including removing toxins from the body. In this article we explain the symptoms of liver cancer, how it develops and the risk factors that can contribute to the occurrence of this cancer. We also explain the best ways to avoid the disease.
Liver Cancer Symptoms
A person with liver cancer may experience abdominal pain, unexplained weight loss, and fatigue.
Symptoms of liver cancer usually only appear at an advanced stage.
Liver cancer can cause the following symptoms:
– Jaundice, which causes the skin and eyes to turn yellow
– Stomach pain
– Pain near the right shoulder blade
– unexplained weight loss
– an enlarged liver, spleen or both
– Abdominal swelling or fluid retention
– back pain
– Feeling of fullness after a small meal
Liver cancer can also cause swelling of visible veins under the skin of the abdomen, as well as bruising and bleeding.
It can also lead to high calcium and cholesterol levels and low blood sugar.
The different stages of liver cancer
To guide treatment and outline the outlook for liver cancer, doctors divide its progression into four stages:
Stage 1: The tumor remains in the liver and has not spread to other organs or sites.
2: Either there are multiple small tumors all remaining in the liver, or a tumor has invaded a blood vessel.
3: There are multiple large tumors or a tumor that has reached a major blood vessel.
4: The cancer has metastasized, meaning it has spread to other parts of the body.
Once a doctor diagnoses and identifies the stage of the cancer, treatment begins.
The main causes of liver cancer
Doctors do not yet know the exact causes of liver cancer. However, most liver cancers are associated with cirrhosis. Chronic infections with hepatitis B or C viruses are very common causes of liver cancer. People with both types of virus have a significantly higher risk of developing liver cancer than other healthy people. Both forms can lead to cirrhosis.
Some inherited liver diseases, such as hemochromatosis, cause cirrhosis and also increase the risk of liver cancer.
Other risk factors for developing liver cancer include:
– Type 2 diabetes
People with diabetes, especially if they also have hepatitis or drink large amounts of alcohol on a regular basis, are more likely to develop liver cancer.
– family history
If a person’s mother, father, brother or sister has liver cancer, they are at a higher risk of developing the disease themselves.
– Heavy alcohol consumption
Consuming more than six alcoholic beverages per day for a long period of time can lead to cirrhosis. This in turn increases the risk of liver cancer.
– Long-term exposure to aflatoxins
A certain fungus produces a substance called aflatoxin. When molds grow on the following plants, they can lead to the presence of aflatoxins:
The risk of liver cancer only increases after prolonged exposure to aflatoxins. These substances are less of a concern in developed countries where manufacturers routinely test for aflatoxins.
– Low immunity
People with weakened immune systems, such as those infected with HIV, are five times more likely to develop liver cancer than other healthy people.
Obesity increases the risk of developing many types of cancer. In people who later develop liver cancer, obesity can contribute to cirrhosis and fatty liver.
about three times as many men as women develop liver cancer.
Former smokers and current smokers have a higher risk of liver cancer than people who have never smoked.
Who should be screened for liver cancer as a priority?
People at high risk of liver cancer should be screened regularly. This includes people with:
– Hepatitis B or C
– Alcohol-related cirrhosis
– Cirrhosis due to haemochromatosis, a disease in which iron salts are deposited in body tissues
Liver cancer becomes very difficult to cure if a doctor diagnoses it at a later date.
Screening is the only effective way to detect liver cancer at an early stage because the symptoms of early liver cancer are either subtle or absent.
Outlook: the sooner the better
The outlook for liver cancer is poor. People often detect liver cancer at a late stage.
Before liver cancer spreads from its original site, the 5-year survival rate is 31%. This means that 31% of people diagnosed with liver cancer survive at least five years after diagnosis.
Once the cancer spreads to nearby tissues, the survival rate drops to 11%. At a more advanced stage, when liver cancer has spread to distant organs, this rate drops to 2%. This is why regular screening of people at high risk for liver cancer is so important.
Treatment for liver cancer often involves intensive surgery with a high risk of complications. This can further affect a person’s outlook for liver cancer.
How to prevent the occurrence of liver cancer
Liver cancer has a low survival rate compared to some other types of cancer. However, people can reduce their risk of getting the disease. They can also improve their chances of early detection.
There is no way to completely prevent liver cancer, but the steps below can help reduce the risk.
1 Moderate alcohol consumption
Regular and prolonged consumption of large amounts of alcohol significantly increases the risk of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Moderation or abstinence from alcohol consumption can significantly reduce the risk of developing liver cancer.
2 Limit tobacco use
It can help prevent liver cancer, especially in people with hepatitis B and C.
3 Get vaccinated against hepatitis B
The following people should consider getting hepatitis vaccination:
– Drug addicts who share needles
-People who have unprotected sex with multiple partners
Nurses, doctors, dentists and other healthcare professionals whose jobs increase the risk of hepatitis B infection
– Those who frequently travel to areas of the world where hepatitis B is prevalent
There is no surefire way to prevent hepatitis C or get vaccinated against the virus. However, using a condom during sex can help reduce the risk of infection.
4 Maintain a healthy body weight
Obesity is a risk factor because fatty liver and cirrhosis can lead to liver cancer and diabetes. If you take care of your physical health and maintain a moderate body weight, you can reduce the risk of liver cancer.
Treat 5 underlying diseases
Certain other diseases, such as diabetes and hemochromatosis, can lead to liver cancer. Treating these conditions before they become liver cancer can reduce the risk of complications.
Can liver cancer be prevented? (2019).
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Risk factors for liver cancer. (2019).
Liver cancer survival rates. (2019).
* Presse Santé strives to convey health knowledge in a language accessible to all. In NO CASE can the information given replace the advice of a doctor.
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Liver Cancer Symptoms of Liver Cancer