Published On : Sat, Oct 30th, 2021

LIVER CANCER AWARNESS MONTH – Understand your Liver better

The liver is the largest internal organ. It lies under your right ribs underneath your right lung. Liver cancer is a type of cancer that starts in the liver. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common form of liver cancer in adults1.

Every year more than 34,000 patients are diagnosed with liver cancer in India while around 33,000 die because of it. It is 4 times more common in men as compared to women affecting people in the age group of 40 – 70 years.

According to Dr. Saurabh Prasad, Consultant Medical Oncologist, “Several factors can increase a person’s risk of Liver Cancer. The most common risk factor is long-standing infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV). Other risk factors could be Age, Cirrhosis, Heavy alcohol use, Obesity, Type 2 diabetes etc.


Dr. Saurabh Prasad, Consultant Medical Oncologist further added that risk of Liver cancer can be prevented by – 1)avoid and treat hepatitis B and C infections; 2) Limit alcohol and tobacco use, 3) Get to and stay at a healthy weight, 3)Limit exposure to cancer-causing chemicals & 4) Treat diseases that increase liver cancer risk

It is often hard to detect liver cancer early since signs and symptoms often do not appear until it is in its later stages. Testing is recommended for people at higher risk.

 

  • Liver cancer symptoms can be non-specific.
  • Unexplained Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling very full after a small meal
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • An enlarged liver, felt as fullness under the ribs on the right side
  • An enlarged spleen, felt as fullness under the ribs on the left side
  • Pain in the abdomen or near the right shoulder blade
  • Swelling or fluid build-up in the abdomen
  • Itching
  • Yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice)

Other symptoms can include fever, enlarged veins on the belly that can be seen through the skin, and abnormal bruising or bleeding.

 

Having one or more symptoms does not mean you have liver cancer. Still, if you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to have them checked by a doctor so that the cause can be addressed.

 

There are many options which are available for the treatment of liver cancer.

  • Surgery: The best option to cure liver cancer is either a surgery or a liver transplant.
  • Ablation: Is a treatment that destroys liver tumors without removing them.
  • Embolization: Is a procedure that injects substances directly into an artery in the liver to block or reduce the blood flow to a tumor in the liver.
  • Radiation therapy: uses high-energy rays (or particles) to kill cancer cells.
  • Targeted Drug therapy: Like chemotherapy, these drugs enter the bloodstream and reach almost all areas of the body, which makes them potentially useful against cancers that have spread to distant parts of the body.
  • Immunotherapy: is the use of medicines that help a person’s own immune system find and destroy cancer cells.

 

The choice of treatment depends on the extent of the cancer as well as patient profile and is at the discretion of the treating Oncologist

 

Reference:

  • American Cancer Society; https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/CRC/PDF/Public/8698.00.pdf accessed on 23/9/20 at 12:18 pm
  • GLOBOCAN-2020 https://gco.iarc.fr/
  • Subrat K. Acharya; Epidemiology of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in India; J Clin Exp Hepatol. 2014 Aug; 4(Suppl 3): S27–S33.