Liver is one of the crucial organs that performs numerous functions in the body like filtering blood, removing toxins, etc. The functioning of liver gets affected when cancer cells grow in the liver cells. This is medically termed as Liver Cancer.
More than primary liver cancer (cancer that starts in liver), secondary liver cancer ( cancer that has spread to the liver from another organ) affects majority of people.
Let’s know about liver cancer, its causes, symptoms and treatment.
What is Liver Cancer?
Liver Cancer is a type of cancer that affects the liver cells. When the cells grow abnormally, they multiply and form a tumor. This converts into cancer as it grows and affects nearby tissues and cells.
Liver cancer can be primary, which means cancer develops in it. However, most of the times cancer develops in some other body part, reaches the liver and affects it. This is known as secondary liver cancer.
Liver cancer types include:
Hepatocellular Carcinoma ( HCC) or Primary liver cancer
Cholangiocarcinoma (Bile duct cancer)
Signs and Symptoms
- Unexplained Weight loss
- Upper abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- General weakness
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal swelling
- White, chalky stools
In early stages, most people don’t experience any symptoms. However, if you do, consult an expert at earliest.
Causes of Liver Cancer
HCC -Primary liver cancer is caused by chronic liver damaged caused by alcohol abuse, birth defects, or infections like hepatitis B and C, cirrohis, etc. All these things can cause mutation in the liver cells DNA that result in abnormal growth of cells. Most people diagnosed with primary liver cancer have cirrohis of the liver.
Moreover, there are some risk factors that increase the chances of getting liver cancer. Let’s know about these risk factors.
- Hepatitis B and C infection
- Inherited Disease like hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease
- Alcohol abuse
- Exposure to aflatoxins
- NAFLD (Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that means accumulation of fat in the liver)
With all these risk factors, there are some chances of preventing liver cancer.
You can decrease your risk of liver cancer by preventive mesaures like:
- Quit or limit alcohol consumption
- Maintain healthy weight
- Eat fruits and vegetable
- Get a hepatitis B vaccines
- Prevent hepatitis C infection by practicing safe sex, avoiding IV drugs and choosing only clean shops for peircing or tattoo.
- Blood test to detect abnormal liver functions.
- Imaging test like ultrasounds, MRI, MRCP and CT scan to detect tumors.
- A biopsy (taking a tissue sample and sending to lab for investigation) to make a definitive diagnosis of liver cancer. However a biopsy us not always needed for doagnosis.
Once the liver cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will do staging based on the size, location and spread of the cancer. The doctor will decide the best liver cancer treatment based on the staging.
Various treatment options for liver cancer include:
- Surgery for liver cancer is aimed at removing the tumor following the principles of the segmental orientation of the liver. Only small-sized liver tumors and less than 3 in number are amenable for surgery. Sometimes interventions are required to reduce tumor size ( TACE) and increase normal liver volume ( PVE -portal vein embolization )before surgery.
- Liver transplant surgery to replace the diseased liver with a of a healthy one from a donor. This is possible only in select few patients who fit into the eligibility criteria.
2. Localized Treatment:
These treatment directly target cancer cells and kills them. Some of these include:
- Heating and destroying cancer cells with radiofrequency ablation by using electric current.
- Freezing cancer cells by using a instrument (cryoprobe) that kills cancer cells due to extreme cold.
- Injecting alcohol or chemotherpay drugs directly in the liver tumour. While alcohol is injected directly into the tumour, chemotherapy drugs are injected into the blood vessels supplying the tumour.Alcohol based treatments are not used nowadays due to the availability of better treatment options.
3. Other Treatments
- Sterotactic Radiation Therapy: A procedure to destroy cancer cells using high-energy beam.
- Targeted Drug Therpay: Its a form of therapy where the drugs target the liver cancer cells specifically. This is used in advanced and metastatic HCC.
- Chemotherapy : It used in cholngiocarcinoma of liver.
Like any cancer, liver cancer can be bad news in a family. It comes with emotional, physical and financial challanges. However, if you take preventive measures, you can decrease your chances of getting liver cancer.
Take care of your liver by eating healthy food items, quitting alcohol and smokin, indulging in safe sex, etc.
However, if you or someone in your family has liver cancer, you can book an appointment with Dr Praveen to begin a treatment.
FAQs Related To Liver Cancer
Which doctor should I consult for liver cancer?
If you or someone in your family has liver cancer, you should consult an oncologist. An oncologist is a cancer specialist with an expertise in diagnosing, managing and treating cancers. Moreover, for cancers of liver, stomach, esophagus or gallbladder, you can consult an oncologist who specializes in GI cancers.
Should I get a second opinion?
The treatment works best when a patient is happy and satisfied. You should definitely get a second opinion if you think something is off with diagnosis, treatment or anything.
Until and unless you feel ready, you should not start the treatment. However, undue delays need to be avoided.
Do I need to start treatment immediately?
Cancer treatment should start soon after diagnosis has been made. However, with most cancers, you can wait for a week or two to get a treatment. In the meantine, you can discuss other treatment options with your doctor and get a clear picture of everything.
Is bile duct cancer the same as liver cancer?
Bile duct cancer, also known as cholangiocarcinoma is a group of cancers that usually start in the bile ducts. Bile ducts are the branched tubes that connect the gallbladder and liver to the small intestine.
Whereas liver cancer is the cancer of cells (hepatocytes) of the liver, also termed as hepatocellular carcinoma. Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma is a variant of liver cancer that occurs in the parts of the bile ducts within the liver. Hence, bile duct cancer can be a type of liver cancer.
Can liver cancer come back?
Yes, there are chances of recurrence in liver cancer, especially after initial treatment. This can happen the cancer is at a relatively higher stage.
What is the cost of treatment?
The cost of liver cancer treatment may range from INR 150000 to INR 400000 in India. However, the cost may vary, based on your mediclaim. You can also check what your insurance policy covers.
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Meet Mumbai’s Liver Cancer Specialist
Why Dr. Praveen Kammar
A Surgical Oncologist Practicing In The City Of Mumbai
- Experience of a decade in treating cancer
- Expertise in Laparoscopic cancer surgery, Robotic cancer surgery
- Expertise in Digestive System Cancers, Colorectal cancers , Peritoneal cancers, advanced abdominal cancers
- Expertise in Cytoreductive Surgery, HIPEC, PIPAC
- Affiliated to all major hospitals in Mumbai
- Consultations at a center near you
- Excellent support staff to help you during treatment
- Home care services
- 360 degree care
Years Of Experience
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