Liver cancer occurs with malignant tumors originating from the tissue of this organ itself. We can say that the disease is more common, especially in regions where hepatitis B infection is common. In regions where hepatitis B vaccination is applied, the incidence of cancer is slightly lower. This cancer, which is more common in men than in women, is also common in patients with hepatitis B, hepatitis C and cirrhosis.
Hepatocellular carcinoma, which develops due to the hepatocyte, the functional cell of this organ, accounts for approximately 90% of the cases. The remaining 10% is caused by cholangiocarcinoma tumors rooted in the bile ducts in the liver. However, we can say that the spread of a cancer that develops in another organ to the liver can also lead to this cancer. Cancer that occurs anywhere in the body can spread to the liver. We will review the causes of liver cancer as well as risk factors. We will also touch on liver cancer treatment. Let’s take the symptoms beforehand.
Liver Cancer Symptoms
Liver cancer does not show any symptoms in the early stages. Unfortunately, this situation negatively affects the rates of early treatment of cancer. Generally, we can say that some symptoms occur when it progresses. These symptoms can be listed as follows:
- Unreasonable weight loss
- A significant decrease in appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal pain
- Swelling in the upper right part of the abdomen
- Yellowing of the whites of the eyes and also the skin
- Dark urine
- The stool has a lighter color which is close to white
Of course, these symptoms are taken seriously by patients as well, as all of these symptoms are accepted as a harbinger of a health problem. Consulting a doctor as soon as possible enables a diagnosis in a short time and treatment is started.
Liver Cancer Causes And Risk Factors
Of course, patients also want to have an idea about liver cancer causes or risk factors. However, we can say that despite many studies, the causes of this cancer are still not clearly determined. Various findings have been made that only certain ailments can trigger this cancer. In this regard, it is necessary to draw attention to hepatitis B, hepatitis C and hepatitis D viruses. Having had jaundice before is one of the important underlying factors.
We can give a short list on what the main liver cancer risk factors are:
- Aflatoxin (aspergillus flavus venom)
- Genetic transmission
- Some congenital and metabolic diseases
- Hemachromatosis, Wilson and glycogen storage disease
- Exposure to certain chemicals
How Is Liver Cancer Detected?
Of course, some tests need to be done to diagnose liver cancer. We can say that especially imaging tests are used. Ultrasonography, computed tomography and magnetic resonance are extremely successful examinations in the detection of tumors in the liver. However, a blood sample must be taken from the patient and a blood test must be performed. The reason for this is that the substance called alphafetoprotein, which is shortly called AFP, increases when there is a tumor in the liver. In this way, the blood test measures whether the value in question rises or not. This data is also considered to be an extremely important marker for diagnosis.
Meanwhile, it is necessary to draw attention to an important issue. Patients in the risk group must have regular checks. Thanks to these controls, early diagnosis can be made if cancer develops. Consequently, the success rate of the treatment will be much higher thanks to early diagnosis.
What is the Treatment for Liver Cancer?
Let us underline that when the patient is diagnosed with liver cancer, treatment must be done. If treatment is not done, there is a life-threatening risk. The lifespan of cancer patients who are not treated can be even less than 1 year. First of all, let us state that there may be different approaches in the treatment of primary liver cancer. A multidisciplinary approach is often required in treatment. In this context, it is preferred to plan and implement treatment by a team consisting of general surgery, radiology, gastroenterology, oncology and radiation oncology.
Of course, factors such as the stage of the cancer, how much it has spread, the age of the patient and general health status are also taken into consideration. Surgical removal of the mass formed in the liver, that is, surgery is also one of the treatment options. However, it may be preferred to reduce the mass in question with medication or radiation therapy. Another option is to freeze or thaw the mass with treatment. Options such as the injection of alcohol into the mass, the use of some drugs that only target cancer cells are also taken into consideration and the most suitable for the patient is selected.
At this point, patients may wonder about liver transplantation in case of liver cancer. Removal of the patient’s liver and subsequent liver transplantation is an important treatment option. However, we cannot talk about the necessity to have a liver transplant for every patient immediately. Liver transplantation is usually the last option, as there may be some difficulties in finding a suitable liver for the patient.
Sometimes, unfortunately, a successful result cannot be obtained despite all treatment options. In such cases, treatment is applied to provide relief and relieve the pain of the patient. It should be noted that supportive therapies can be applied while treatments such as palliative care, surgical intervention, chemotherapy or radiation therapy are ongoing. On the one hand, treatments for the tumor occurring in the liver are applied, on the other hand, treatments aimed at relieving the patient’s troubles can be applied together.
What are the Stages of Liver Cancer?
Generally, liver cancer is evaluated in 4 different stages. We can list these stages and what they mean as follows:
The malignant tumor present in the liver in the first stage affects only the liver. Cancer has not reached different tissues or organs.
The presence of more than one cancer tissue with a size of less than 3 cm is considered as the second stage. At this stage, there is usually a spread in the blood vessels.
At this stage, there are more than one tumor tissue with a size of more than 5 cm. However, if the cancer has affected large blood vessels or lymphs, it is considered to be stage 3.
In this last stage, we can say that the disease also reaches areas such as lung, bone and lymph nodes. Metastasis is noticeable by reaching tissues located farther from the liver.
How is Liver Cancer Surgery Performed?
In the case of liver cancer, the decision of surgical treatment can be made. The operation is performed under general anesthesia and the duration of the operation may not be the same in every patient. Surgery can only be performed to remove the tumor. At the same time, we can say that surgery can be preferred for removing the entire liver and performing liver transplantation. However, as we mentioned before, liver transplantation is a preferred method as a last resort. It is preferred to apply different treatments beforehand. You can write all your questions about liver cancer in the comments section.