Signs and symptoms of liver cancer
Liver cancer may not cause any signs or symptoms in its initial stages. When cancer begins to show its signs and symptoms, you may feel pain in the abdomen, particularly at the top right. The pain may be like a dull, throbbing sensation or stabbing in nature. It may also be experienced at the following places:
- Near the right shoulder blade
- In the back
Other signs and symptoms of liver cancer include:
- Nausea or vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal fullness even after a small meal
- An enlarged liver that may be felt under the ribs on the right side
- An enlarged spleen that may be felt under the ribs on the left side
- Pain in the abdomen (belly) or near the right shoulder blade
- Swelling over the abdomen due to fluid buildup
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
- Unintentional weight loss
What causes liver cancer?
Primary liver cancer refers to the uncontrolled division of the cell that begins in the liver. This happens when there is a mutation in the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that causes the DNA to malfunction. DNA is the gene code that instructs the cells when to divide, grow, or die. If the DNA that controls the cells malfunctions, cells go on dividing and growing excessively, and they fail to die at the expected rate. This causes a buildup of abnormal cells in the bladder that leads to harmful (malignant) liver cancer.
Sometimes the cause of primary liver cancer cannot be found. It may happen without any pre-existing illness. Certain factors have been seen to increase the risk of developing it. These include:
- Chronic infection with Hepatitis B virus or Hepatitis C virus
- Liver cirrhosis (formation of scar tissue in the liver)
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD (an accumulation of fat in the liver)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Exposure to aflatoxins (poisons produced by molds that grow on poorly stored crops or grains)
- Certain inherited liver conditions (hemochromatosis and Wilson disease)
How is liver cancer diagnosed?
Doctors will first try to rule out all other causes of your signs and symptoms. They will take your complete medical history and perform a physical examination. They will order the following tests:
What is the treatment of liver cancer?
Treatments for primary liver cancer depend on the stage of the disease, your age, overall health, and preferences. The 2 types of treatment options are:
- Surgery to remove the tumor
- Liver transplant surgery
- Localized treatments: These treatments are targeted toward the cancerous portion of the liver. Various options include:
- Radiofrequency ablation (using electric current to heat and destroy cancer cells)
- Cryoablation (freezing cancer cells to destroy them)
- Injecting alcohol into the tumor (injecting pure alcohol directly into the liver tumor, either through the skin or during an operation)
- Chemoembolization (injecting chemotherapy drugs or anticancer drugs into the liver)
- Placing beads in the liver (placing tiny spheres filled with radiation in the liver)
- Radiation therapy (using high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors)
- Targeted drug therapy (targeted drugs that focus on specific abnormalities present within cancer cells to kill cancer cells)
- Immunotherapy (using the immune system to fight cancer)
- Chemotherapy (using medications in the form of injectable or pills to kill cancer cells)
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