What is a Liver Cancer?
Situated under the ribs in the upper right-hand side of human abdomen, the liver works to break down toxins and medications that remain in the bloodstream. Also, it performs major functions like storing glucose and produces bile that helps in the digestive process.
However, when harmful elements pass through this organ or the pre-existing cells transform into such, cancer in the liver occurs. To be specific, there are two main versions of liver cancer that have high prevalence- metastatic (secondary) and primary.
Liver Cancer Guide
In the human body, liver performs a lot of useful functions that allows your body to expunge the bad elements. This organ changes the nutrients and other chemicals that you consume into something productive for the body. But besides from the good food nutrients, some of the things that enter this organ have extremely harmful properties, like cancer causing agents.
Primary liver cancer is a condition that completely degrades the normal functions of your body. Additionally, there is another type of liver cancers too, that occurs due to the passing of cancer cells from the bloodstream. However, this version is arguably one of the most harmful types of liver cancer and is more common.
In this article, you will learn about the distinctions of each type of liver cancer, and what measures of treatment are available. If you notice any of the symptoms, you must visit a liver cancer doctor in Pune at the earliest. The fastest assessment and subsequent treatment will help you combat this medical condition and live a better life.
1. Liver Cancer Causes
There are various circumstances that lead to primary as well as secondary liver cancer in the body. Firstly, other conditions that have already harmed your liver can lead to the growth of lumps in the organ. Previous infections because of diseases such as hepatitis C and B, cirrhosis, hemochromatosis, too much alcohol consumption, or birth defects can induce this.
In contrast, the main cause for the liver cancer diagnosis of the metastatic (or secondary) nature is the indirect transport of harmful cells. To put it simply, if any other organ of your body is already suffering from cancer, those cells can travel to the liver. Therefore, when this happens, these cells accumulate in this organ, and metastatic liver cancer is visible.
2. Liver Cancer Types and Stages
To classify, the two main types of liver cancer occur under different circumstances and have different effects. Depending on where and how it originated, liver cancer is classified as metastatic or secondary, and primary liver cancer.
i. Secondary Liver Cancer –
Since the liver is where most of the particles accumulate through the lymphatic system and bloodstream, every cell reaches here. As a result, the cancerous cells from a primary cancerous organs can reach this region and affect the liver, causing metastasis. Not to mention, any variety of cancer can cause the growth of such tumors, including bowel cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, pancreatic cancer, etc.
ii. Primary Liver Cancer –
Since this type of cancer occurs over time or as a result of another liver disease, it is harder to find it soon. Thus, you need to visit a liver cancer specialist to ascertain your condition if you suspect anything. The cancer cells form on any part of the liver, and often at more than one place. Moreover, there are different variations of this cancer, depending on the causes, intensity, and region.
a. Liver angiosarcoma- This is a rare type and very dangerous as it is detected usually at the last stages. This attacks the blood vessels mainly and then spreads around.
b. Cholangiocarcinoma- This happens in the bile ducts of the patient, and is relatively common.
c. Hepatoma- Forming in the hepatocytes cells, it travels further to other parts like the stomach, liver, and pancreas. Alcohol abuse is the main factor for this, and it is the most common of these cancers.
d. Hepatoblastoma- A liver cancer prognosis shows this rare type of cancer mainly in children below 3 years.
There are different stages of liver cancer as well, and the doctors recommend the treatments accordingly. In fact, the visibility of the symptoms is different as per the stage, as seen in the prognosis. There are four types of staging systems too, including the TNM system, the CLIP system, the BCLC system, and the Okuda system. The following liver cancer stages are according to the current AJCC system.
● IA A tumor of 2cm size or less has not formed in the blood vessels.
● IB- The tumor has not grown too much and has remained in its place of origin.
● II- The 2cm tumor has gotten into the blood vessels or various tiny tumors have formed (total 5cm length altogether).
● IIIA- The size and density have gotten more aggressive, and one of them is 5cm at least.
● IIIB- One of the tumors has matured in the important veins of the liver (hepatic or portal vein).
● IVA- The tumor (or tumors) has branched out into the lymph nodes. Liver cancer symptoms are better visible now.
● IVB- Cancer has spread to distant crucial organs like lungs or bones; lymph nodes may have these too.
3. Symptoms of Liver Cancer
Many early warning signs of liver cancer are not very obvious, but it depends on the type of cancer you have. Certainly, those having other types of cancer know that they have chances of contracting secondary liver cancer too. Moreover, doctors perform regular check-ups, and they catch this type of liver cancer sooner.
Although, the symptoms for the primary form of liver cancer appear in the later stages; and thus, you should stay vigilant. The most common symptoms include health issues like nausea, extreme tiredness, vomiting, discomfort, pain in the abdomen, etc. And some other signs like chalky stool discharge, jaundice, and getting more susceptible to bleeding and bruising.
4. The Risk for Liver Cancer
In case of liver cancer, there are some people who are more susceptible to it than others. Indeed, the factors that can cause secondary liver cancer in a patient stem from other types of cancer. If one is already suffering from cancer in any other organ, the complication of liver cancer is possible.
Liver cancer risk factors for primary liver cancer include conditions like obesity, alcoholism, and diabetes. Aside from that, if a person is suffering from the B or C type of hepatitis,that too can damage the organ and can lead to cancer. Also, if you have come into contact with aflatoxin found on corn, grains, or peanuts, you can get this medical condition.
5. Detection and Diagnosis
In the question of diagnosing the liver cancer types and stages, the first thing the doctor checks is your medical history. The doctors discuss information like previous illnesses, alcohol intake, etc., and then they perform a physical examination. Consequently, the doctors check the liver enzymes, protein, and bilirubin levels in the organ and alpha-fetoprotein levels in the blood.
Abdominal MRI or CT scans give detailed information of your liver. Following this, liver biopsy is another method of detection for properly diagnosing this condition. It is invasive in nature, and this liver cancer diagnostic procedure is accomplished in two ways. Either the doctor uses a small needle to take a liver filament out or they enter a camera inside (laparoscope). This procedure is called a Diagnostic laparoscopy.
6. Treatment for Liver Cancer
There are various treatment methods available for liver cancer, but they work for different types. Certainly, the doctor checks your diagnosis, cancer stage, and vitals and formulates the treatment plan.
There are non-invasive methods of treatment that kill the cancerous cells using energy (heat or light) waves or medication. These include chemotherapy, targeted therapy, and radiation therapy; they work depending on the dosage and patient’s stage. Apart from that, herbal treatment too can help to cure this condition to some extent, depending on its intensity. Yet, if liver cancer medicine does not manage well enough, the next step is surgery.
Notably, there are different types of surgical procedures, depending on how far cancer has spread. A hepatectomy is performed on the liver organ alone, while chemoembolization and embolization block the hepatic artery. Furthermore, a liver transplant is reserved for the patients in the later stages, and it is a complication many patients want to avoid. Indeed, the liver cancer surgery recovery time for transplantation is high and unsuitable for many, and they may opt for the ablation technique.
7. Liver Cancer Diet & Medications
In order to get better with time during and after liver cancer treatment, there are several dietary plans you should follow.
The doctors would judge your condition, and depending on your treatment plan, prescribe medications. Indeed, some of them include Pemazyre (Pemigatinib), Atezolizumab, Bevacizumab, Cyramza (Ramucirumab), Pembrolizumab and others. Also, some doctors would prescribe ayurvedic medicines and that may works too. However, a doctor’s recommendation is important to acknowledge before taking any medication.
Similarly, a good food habit a liver cancer surgeon would suggest to you, includes constant hydration. Also, consumption of whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal), fruits, and vegetables are good for your health. You should opt for lean proteins (eggs, chicken, fish, and turkey) as well, as they are good for increasing immunity.
8. Ways to Prevent Liver Cancer
There are many manners in which you can keep yourself safe from liver cancer. Making some lifestyle changes like avoiding too much alcohol indulgence, and safe sexual practices to avoid contracting hepatitis B are good preventive measures. Plus, you should take care of your body mass index as well, and add exercise to your daily routine.
Get the vaccinations for hepatitis B, avoid using drugs or tattooing with needles that other people may have used. The last two, especially, may cause Hepatitis C.
A liver transplant is an operation that involves the replacement of a patient's diseased liver with either a whole or partial healthy liver from a donor.
Dr. Bipin Vibhute
Liver & Multiorgan Transplant Surgeon
Dr. Aniruddha Bhosale
Consultant Liver & GI surgery
Dr. Dinesh Zirpe
Consultant Liver & GI surgery
Dr. Abhijit Mane
Asst Consultant Liver & Multiorgan Transplant
Dr. Manoj Raut
Consultant Liver Transplantation Anaesthesia & Critical Care
M/S. Malvika Karkare
Sr. Transplant Dietition
A liver transplant is an operation that replaces a patient’s diseased liver with a whole or partial healthy operation that replaces.
Why we should Donate Organs?
By Dr.Bipin Vibhute
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