What is liver cancer?

Content is medically reviewed by:

Dr. Udaya Kumar Maiya (MBBS, MD, DNB(RT), DCCF (Paris), Medical Director, Portea.

According to medical liver cancer definition, liver cancer is a condition where the liver ceases functioning properly due to the presence and growth of cancerous cells in the liver. Your liver is a large glandular organ responsible for filtering blood and toxins and producing bile. Due to this, the liver becomes accessible to different cells passing through the bloodstream, including cancerous cells which develop into tumours. This is how liver cancer originates.

Liver cancer types are divided into primary and secondary liver cancer. Primary liver cancer originates in the liver where abnormal cells begin dividing and multiply rapidly, while secondary liver cancer is a result of cancer from nearby or different internal organs from other sites. Liver cancer symptoms in patients are fatigue, weight loss, lack of appetite or feeling full after having a small meal, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, itching, and pain around the right shoulder blade. Some of the several liver cancer causes are chronic infections association with hepatitis-type B or C viruses, DNA mutations, drug and alcohol abuse. Liver cancer treatment options recommended by doctors are surgery, targeted drug therapy, and palliative (supportive) care.

 

Types of Liver Cancer

Although the two most common liver cancer types and primary and secondary liver cancer, this condition is categorised based on the characteristics and types of abnormal cells found in the liver. These are the different liver cancer types found in patients:

-Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) – 75% of liver cancer cancers are based on Hepatocellular carcinoma. This originates through infections related to the hepatitis B or C.

-Fibrolamellar HCC – A rare type of liver cancer which is usually very responsive to medical therapies and treatments.

-Cholangiocarcinoma – This occurs in the bile-carrying ducts of the liver and accounts for 10-20% liver cancer cases in patients.

-Angiosarcoma – This begins from blood vessels in the liver and grows rapidly from there. 1% of liver cancer cases belong to this type.

-Secondary liver cancer – When primary cancer from a different site of the body affects the liver by spreading internally, it turns into secondary liver cancer. Most liver cancer cases are attributed to this type.

 

What are some of the liver cancer causes?

Liver cancer has been linked to alcohol abuse, obesity, and fatty liver disease. The main liver cancer causes in men and women are:

-Birth Defects – The liver may get damaged due to birth defects

-Genetics – If your family has a history of liver disease, then the chances of developing liver cancer is higher

-Chronic Infections – Any chronic infections associated with Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C virus lead to lead liver cancer in patients

-Chemical substances – Intake of chemical substances like vinyl chloride and arsenic

-Rare diseases – Liver cancer development has been linked with rare diseases like Wilson’s disease and tyrosinemia.

Smoking and alcohol abuse have been known to lead to liver cancer development in patients

 

Diagnosis of liver cancer

Determining the extent your liver cancer has spread throughout your body begins with a liver cancer diagnostic test. Your doctor may recommend a combination of the following liver cancer screening tests to find out which stage your medical condition is currently in:

-Blood tests – Reveals any abnormalities in the liver

-Imaging tests – CT scans and MRIs are used in conjunction with ultrasound liver cancer tests to identify the extent of the outbreak.

-Biopsy – A liver biopsy may be performed to collect a sample of liver tissue for liver cancer diagnosis in the laboratory. Cancer cells from samples are analysed under a microscope.

Liver cancer treatment

Liver cancer treatment will depend on the size, number and location of tumours in the liver. Your doctor will recommend specific treatment plans based on your liver cancer diagnosis, and these are the available treatment procedures for different liver cancer stages:

 

-Surgery:

Where surgical options are considered, there are two options for liver cancer treatment. Hepatectomy is the first type where a portion of the liver or the whole liver is removed to treat cancer where remaining tissues are expected to regrow and replace eradicated parts. The second type of surgery is a liver transplant surgery where a suitable donor is required to replace the liver. Liver transplant surgical procedures are possible as long as cancer doesn’t spread to other internal organs and medications are administered to prevent rejection cases.

-Chemotherapy:

A type of drug therapy that relies on the use of intravenous medications for treating patients. It is normally given as a form of outpatient treatment but comes with side effects post-treatment such as vomiting, lack of appetite and chills.

-Radiation Therapy:

High-powered energy beams travel over the body and kill cancerous cells in the liver. They may be administered internally or externally.

-Targeted Drug Therapy:

Targeted drug therapy is a way to treat liver cancer by using medications to target and eliminate vulnerabilities in tumour cells growing in the liver. These medications cut off blood supply to the tumours and let them die.

When do you need us?

Part of liver cancer home treatment is palliative (supportive) care. It involves healthcare professionals and nurses for liver cancer giving patients the required support – emotionally and spiritually. Pain medications or relievers are given to the patient to relieve liver cancer symptoms, and this liver cancer care in-home may improve the chances of recovery or life after surgery. This is where our team of in-home nurses and supervising doctors help. Our doctors assess and diagnose your condition from the comfort of your home. In case any complications arise, they would recommend the best course of action through appropriate treatment planning.

 

How we can help

Battling liver cancer alone is debilitating for patients, and this is where our team of nurses, doctors, and occupational therapists help. Being experts in liver cancer treatment at home, they can formulate a suitable treatment and care plan based on your medical condition. The right palliative care will enable you to continue enjoying a high-quality of life and outlook before and after surgery.

 

Summary

Liver cancer care at home is made a reality with our team of in-home healthcare specialists, and there is life after surgery. However, patients may be expected to adjust to new lifestyle changes based on their medical condition and diagnosis after surgery.

 

Ratings by patients

 

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References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/liver-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20353659

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/liver-cancer/

https://www.webmd.com/cancer/understanding-liver-cancer-basic-information#1

https://medlineplus.gov/livercancer.html

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