the cancer cells that originate in the liver give rise to liver cancer. the liver is the largest glandular organ that performs the function of removing toxins and harmful substances. this organ is found in the upper right side of the abdomen, underneath the diaphragm and above the stomach. the constant filtering of the blood is done in the liver, which is then circulated throughout the body. this organ is also responsible for producing bile, a substance that helps in digesting vitamins, nutrients, fats etc. the liver also stores glucose which helps at times when we are not eating.
the growth of the cancer cells in this vital organ disorients the important functions performed by it. with their gradual and aggressive growth, these cancer cells break from the initial site and spread to other parts and organs of the body.
however, it is often noticed that the cancer cells that spread to the liver from other organs are much more common than the cancer cells originating from the liver.
types of liver cancer
1. hepatocellular carcinoma
also known as hepatoma, the hcc is the most common category of liver cancer that is diagnosed among adults. this develops in the hepatocytes, the predominant liver cells. the cancer cells in hcc have the potential of spreading to different organs of the body. people with severe alcohol addiction can face the threat of hepatocellular carcinoma.
cholangiocarcinoma, also known as bile duct cancer, is found in the small, tube-like bile ducts present in the liver. these ducts perform the function of delivering the bile to the gallbladder so as to help with digestion. cancer that begins in the bile duct is termed intrahepatic bile duct cancer. cancer that originates in sections of the duct outside the liver, then it is known as extrahepatic bile duct cancer.
1. liver angiosarcoma
this is a rare form of cancer found in the blood vessels of the liver. this is a very aggressive cancer that spreads at an alarming rate. liver angiosarcoma is hard to detect in the initial stages and is usually found when it has reached the advanced stage.
this is a very rare form of cancer, usually found in children under three years.
in the case of liver cancer, most signs go undetected in the early stages. the symptoms experienced when it is advanced are as follows;
loss of appetite
yellow discolouration of the skin
white in the eyes
upper abdominal pain
bruising or bleeding easily
•sudden weight loss.
chronic infection with hbv (hepatitis b virus) or hbc (hepatitis c virus) can pose a risk for liver cancer.
cirrhosis is another risk factor for liver cancer. this is a progressive and relatively irreversible condition that causes scar tissues in the liver, thus, increasing the risk of liver cancer.
people who already have diabetes or any other blood sugar disorder also have the threat of liver cancer.
accumulation of fat in the liver is a concern.
excessive alcohol consumption is another threat that can add to the risk of liver cancer.
certain inherited liver diseases like wilson's disease or hemochromatosis can also lead to liver cancer.
continuous exposure to aflatoxins can be responsible for liver cancer. these aflatoxins are found in the moulds that grow on the crops grown poorly. these crops include grains and nuts.
consume alcohol in moderation. it is better to let go of drinking, but if that seems impossible, then one might drink alcohol at the limit.
maintain a healthy weight. exercising daily will keep the body fit and healthy not just externally but also internally.
get a vaccine for hepatitis b. this vaccine can be taken by anyone, including infants, teenagers, adults, and old people.
take measures of hepatitis c, as no vaccines are available for the same. these measures can be taken in the following manner;
don't engage in uncertain and unprotected sex. it is better to be aware of whether the partner is infected with hbv, hcv or any other sexually transmitted infection or not.
don't indulge in iv (intravenous drugs). if this seems impossible, then one must use clean needles. paraphernalia, a common cause of hepatitis c, is commonly transmitted through iv drugs.
while planning to get a tattoo or piercing, look for shops that are hygienic.
blood tests are the first step to be performed, which helps in diagnosing and revealing any abnormality in the functioning of the liver.
another method used for diagnosing the presence of liver cancer is imaging tests. the doctor can recommend various imaging tests such as x-rays, mri, ultrasound and ct scans to determine the presence of any abnormal growth of cells in the liver.
removing a sample of tissue from the liver for testing. a biopsy is performed, where the doctor inserts a thin needle into the liver to collect a tissue sample. this sample is then tested in the laboratory under the microscope to test the presence of cancer.
in most cases, the doctors suggest surgery depending on the age, overall health, and personal preference of the patient. this surgery can include the removal of a tumour from the liver. the other option for surgery can include a liver transplant option, where the infected liver is replaced with a healthy liver.
1. radiation therapy
radiation therapy utilizes high power energy rays, such as x-rays or protons, in order to eliminate cancer cells. doctors direct these beams to the infected liver.
1. targeted drug therapy
targeted drug therapy focuses on the abnormalities in the cancer cells. these abnormalities are blocked to stop the growth of cancer cells.
this is the method where drugs are used to kill the aggressive growth of cancer cells. these drugs can be administered through the vein or can be taken as pills.
immunotherapy is the method that uses the immune system to block and kill cancer cells. this is generally used in the advanced stages of liver cancer.
1. localized treatments
localized treatments are those that are directly administered to the cancer cells. this treatment includes;
heating the cancer cells. in this method, the radiofrequency ablation uses the electric current in order to heat and destroy the cancer cells. with the help of ultrasound, the doctor inserts needle/needles into the small incisions in the abdomen, which is then heated with the electric current to kill the cancer cells.
freezing the cancer cells. in this method, cryoablation utilizes extreme cold to kill the cancer cells. an instrument, a cryo body filled with liquid nitrogen, is directed in the liver tumours.
injecting alcohol into the tumour. pure alcohol is directed into the liver tumours. this alcohol will help in killing the cancer cells.
placing radiation beads inside the liver. spheres containing radiation are placed in the liver. this radiation is directed towards the liver, killing the cancer cells.
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