Liver cancer is a common form of cancer and a leading cause of death worldwide. Because there are usually no noticeable symptoms in the early stage of liver cancer, most patients are only diagnosed when the disease has reached its advanced stage.
Types of Liver Cancer
Risk Factors for Liver Cancer
- Cirrhosis caused by factors such as alcohol consumption or viral hepatitis
- Alcohol consumption
- Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) or Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) infection
- Exposure to Alfatoxin contamination from peanuts, corn, dried chili peppers, etc.
- Inherited and metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, which can cause fatty liver and lead to cirrhosis.
- Exposure to certain chemicals or medications, such as long-term male hormones.
Symptoms of Liver Cancer
Liver cancer does not cause any noticeable symptoms in its early stage. However, the following symptoms will occur in its advanced stage:
- Pain, especially in the upper right abdomen. In some cases, the pain radiates to the back or shoulder.
- Swollen abdomen
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Unexplained fever
- Lump in the liver
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
Diagnosis for Liver Cancer
- The doctor will check the patient’s history and conduct a physical examination.
- Blood tests are taken to look for liver function abnormalities, viral hepatitis, and alpha-fetoprotein.
- Imaging tests such as ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are used.
- The patient will be given a biopsy (non-invasive removal of a sample of liver tissue for testing)
Treatments for Liver Cancer
The most appropriate treatment option will depend on the severity of the condition, the size and appearance of the cancerous cells, the stage and spread of the cancer, and the patients’ overall health. Treatment options include the following:
- Liver transplant surgery is an option for patients under the age of 70 with a tumor of less than 5 cm.
Prevention is preferable to cure for liver cancer. However, treatment can be effective if the liver cancer is detected early through screening. Up to 90% of liver cancers are caused by HBV and HCV infections that lead to cirrhosis
and liver cancer. The liver cancer will then double within 3-6 months. Patients with HBV and HBC should have a liver ultrasound as well as blood tests to check for liver function abnormalities, viral hepatitis and alpha-fetoprotein every 3 months.