By Dr. Sajjan Rajpurohit, Oncology
Liver cancer occurs in the liver of an individual. The liver is located in the upper right part of the abdomen, above the stomach and beneath the diaphragm. The liver is a small-sized organ that is responsible for crucial functions such as eliminating toxins from the body.
Cancer cells are normally formed when due to mutations of the DNA but the exact cause of liver cancer is not known. Liver cancer can be of various types, the most common of those being hepatocellular carcinoma that affects the liver cells called hepatocyte. Other variants of liver cancer are intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma.
The rate of survival for liver cancer is pretty low as the symptoms of the disease are often difficult to identify and appear pretty late in time when the tumor has already increased in size or spread to the surrounding tissue and organs. These are a few of the most common symptoms that are indicative of liver cancer:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Feeling of fullness after a snack
- An enlarged liver that can be felt under the ribcage on the right side
- An enlarged spleen that can be felt under the ribcage on the left side
- Pain in the abdomen or in the right side of the shoulder area
- Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
Other symptoms such as fever, enlarged veins and abnormal bruising and bleeding can vary from person to person. However, certain factors and conditions increase the risk of developing liver cancer even more and might contribute to the overall symptoms. These factors and conditions are:
- Cirrhosis- In many cases of liver cancer, the patient is seen to have cirrhosis which causes scarring of the tissues of the liver thereby increasing your chance of liver cancer.
- Chronic infection with HBV OR HCV- If you are suffering from hepatitis C or B virus, then chances are you might also get cirrhosis which can lead to liver cancer.
- Diabetes- Patients having diabetes have a greater chance of developing liver cancer.
- Exposure to aflatoxins- Aflatoxins are poisonous molds that grow on poorly stored crops. Crops such as corn and peanuts are often contaminated with aflatoxins that can be used by food manufacturers in preparing the products which when consumed will have adverse effect on the consumer.
- Excessive alcohol consumption- Alcohol when consumed in increased amounts may lead to liver damage ultimately resulting in liver cancer.
Therefore, individuals suffering from any one the above conditions or having been exposed to certain factors and those experiencing certain symptoms of liver cancer should immediately consult a doctor so that they get the proper treatment needed. Liver cancer treatment will usually depend on the stage of the disease but the prognosis is very poor compared to other cancer types.