Liver Cancer Symptoms: 5 Warning Signs of Hepatocellular Carcinoma That Should Never Be Ignored

Hepatocellular carcinoma is also called liver cancer. Liver cancer develops when normal cells in the liver transform into abnormal cells due to certain genetic mutations and grow out of control forming a tumour mass which is called liver cancer. More than 8,00,000 people are diagnosed with this cancer each year throughout the world. It is also a leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, with more than 700,000 deaths each year. Today, we have with us Dr Reshma Puranik, MD, DNB Medicine, DM, DNB Medical Oncology, PGDGM, Consultant Medical Oncologist, Ruby Hall Clinic, Pune, to talk about the most prevalent type of liver cancer in adults, its symptoms and treatment options available in India. Here is what the doctor has to say:

What is Hepatocellular Carcinoma?

More than half of people who get liver cancer have long-standing liver disease (also called chronic liver disease) The most common and most serious form of chronic liver disease is called “cirrhosis,” a condition which scars the liver. The common causes of chronic liver disease like alcohol abuse, Hepatitis B and C viruses, and genetic conditions like hemochromatosis can lead to liver cancer. Obesity and fatty liver disease are also common causes of chronic liver disease. Various toxins like certain herbicides and chemicals such as vinyl chloride and arsenic, aflatoxins can also cause liver cancer.

In the early stages, liver cancer may not cause any symptoms at all or may cause mild symptoms like:

Pain in the upper abdomen
Feeling full early or loss of appetite
Unexplained weight loss

Others may have symptoms that are caused by liver disease which worsen when they get cancer like:

Swelling or distention of the abdomen or legs, and
Yellowing of the skin or part of the eyes

When any patient has the above-mentioned symptoms, generally blood tests are done first which include a liver function test and tumor marker of liver cancer which is called alpha-fetoprotein. After that scans like an MRI scan, CT scan, ultrasound, or PET CT may be done to stage the cancer. A Biopsy is a test in which a doctor will remove a small sample of tissue from the liver and confirm cancer.

How is Liver Cancer Treated?

Treatment depends on the stage of the cancer, age of the patient, other health issues, presence of hepatitis infection and the health of the liver (whether any chronic liver disease is present). The various treatment modalities are

Surgery – Liver cancer can sometimes be treated with surgery to remove the part of the liver affected by the cancer.
Liver transplant – A liver transplant is a type of surgery in which a cancer-affected liver is removed and replaced with a healthy liver from another person.
Ablation therapy – Ablation therapy is a procedure that can kill cancer cells in the liver that does not involve surgery. Heat, microwaves, a laser, or radiation therapy can all be used to kill cancer cells.
Blocking the cancer’s blood supply can be done by a procedure called “embolization”.
Immunotherapy – These medicines make our own body’s infection-fighting cells called immune cells destroy cancer cells.
Targeted therapy is those medicines that specifically bind to targets on cancer cells and stop them from growing. They are mostly in the form of tablets, easy to take, and can be taken by old people also with minimal side effects.

Major Risk Factors of Liver Cancer

Answering whether the chance of developing liver cancer is increased by inherited medical conditions, Dr Puranik said, “Yes, some inherited conditions like hereditary hemochromatosis, alpha one antitrypsin deficiency, and porphyria are associated with an increased risk of developing liver cancer.”

Liver Cancer In Men: What Are The Primary Causes?

Liver cancer is more frequent in men than women (approximately 3:1). The common reasons that are thought to be more frequent in men are more alcohol abuse in men as compared to women, more exposure to environmental toxins and more men being hepatitis B carriers than women.

On World Liver Day, Doctor suggests everyone take small steps in order to keep the organ happy, as this can contribute majorly to your overall health and well-being.

What do you think?

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