The liver is one of the largest organs in your body. It has several purposes including:
- helping the body get rid of harmful substances,
- producing bile, which helps your body digest fat,
- storing sugar, which the body uses for energy and
- making proteins, which are the building blocks for cells in the body.
Click on the statements/questions below to reveal the answers to the causes, symtoms and signs of this particular disease.
There are two types of liver cancer. Primary starts in the liver. There are two main types of primary liver cancer:
- Hepatoma, which is often associated with cirrhosis and hepatitis B or C infections.
- Cholangiocarcinoma, which is a rare tumor that develops in the bile duct cells.
Long-term use of anabolic steroids may slightly increase your risk of primary liver cancer. Exposure to vinyl chloride and arsenic is rare but these chemicals may also slightly increase your risk.
Secondary liver cancer is the result of cancer starting in another part of the body and spreading to the liver. This is more common than primary liver cancer. The most frequent sites where cancer starts before spreading to the liver are the lungs, breasts and large intestine.
The following symptoms may indicate the presence of liver cancer or other type of liver disease. Contact your doctor if you experience:
- pain or discomfort on the right side, especially in the upper belly or around the right shoulder blade,
- unexplained weight loss,
- loss of appetite,
- jaundice and/or
- a hard lump on the right side just below the rib cage.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, please contact your doctor. He or she will ask about your medical history and social habits (such as drinking alcohol). You will also be given a physical examination and one or more of the following tests:
- blood tests, which helps evaluate liver function,
- ultrasound, radionuclide or a CT scan of the liver,
- laparoscopy and/or
- liver biopsy.
Your doctor will determine what treatment is likely to be most effective based on whether it’s primary or secondary liver cancer, and how much it has grown or spread. Treatments may include:
- surgery to remove the tumor, which means that part of the liver may be removed also,
- radio frequency ablation,
- injecting alcohol or drugs into the tumor to destroy it and/or
- freezing the tumor with a cold probe.
If the cancer is a hepatoma, a liver transplant is likely to be recommended.
As with any type of cancer, the outcome varies based on your age, overall health, stage at which the tumor was found and the type of tumor.
To provide the optimum potential for recovery, please be alert to any signs of the cancer returning including any of your previous symptoms or new ones. Avoid alcohol and eat small, but frequent, well-balanced meals. Follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions regarding diet, vitamins and supplements, exercise, treatment and follow-up exams.