Each year, about 33,000 Americans are diagnosed with liver cancer.
What is liver cancer?
Liver cancer is a type of cancer that begins in the liver.
Located on the right side of the abdominal area, just right under the rib cage, the liver helps maintain chemical levels in the blood and releases a product called bile.
Bile is a fluid that helps indigestion. It breaks down fats into fatty acids which can be taken into the body by the digestive tract.
The Development of Liver Cancer
Liver cancer happens when there are changes or mutations in the liver cells’ DNA. These DNA mutations can cause liver cells to grow out of control and eventually, become a tumor.
In some cases, liver cancer develops as a result of chronic liver infections.
The following can increase one’s risk of developing primary liver cancer:
People who have diabetes are at higher risk of developing liver cancer than those who don’t have it.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
Often found in overweight or obese people, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is the accumulation of fat in the liver.
Excessive alcohol consumption
Too much alcohol consumption can lead to liver cirrhosis, an irreversible condition causing permanent damage and the formation of scar tissue on the liver.
Exposure to aflatoxins
Aflatoxins are poisons from molds that grow in poorly-stored crops.
Chronic infection with hepatitis B or C
Being chronically infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) increases one’s risk of developing liver cancer.
Symptoms to Watch Out For
Many people are asymptomatic during the early stages of the disease. For those who are symptomatic, they usually complain of:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Upper abdominal pain
- Jaundice (yellowish discoloration of the skin and the whites of the eye)
- Abdominal swelling
- Chalky stools
Preventing Liver Cancer
You can lower your risk of developing liver cancer by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, having a well-balanced diet, moderating your alcohol consumption, and protecting yourself against hepatitis B and C infection.
If you are at a high risk of developing liver cancer, you may want to consider getting frequent liver cancer screening tests.
About the Liver Cancer Screening
The following blood and imaging tests are usually part of liver cancer screening:
High levels of Alpha-Fetoprotein (AFP) in the blood could indicate liver cancer. If the patient already has liver cancer, high levels of AFP could mean cancer has already spread.
Using sound waves to create images of organs in the body, ultrasound is used to determine the presence and size of a tumor.
If suspected images are detected from an ultrasound, the doctor may recommend doing a CT scan. This imaging test can create cross-sectional pictures of the liver from different angles.
MRI scans may be used to detect tumors on patients with cirrhosis. This may also be recommended if liver metastases are suspected in patients with a history of colorectal cancer.
Treating Liver Cancer
Liver cancer treatment may vary, depending on the stage. It can be the removal of part of the liver, transplant, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.
Premier Surgical Associates of Knoxville and Cleveland, TN, have surgeons who have years of experience in treating liver cancer. To request an appointment with a physician at one of our Knoxville or Cleveland offices, visit https://www.premiersurgical.com/request-appointment/
Diagnosing and Treating Liver Cancer