Liver cancer generally sets in at around 60 to 70 years and affects men more than women. Research shows that it is rarer in the United States than it is in Asia or Africa but the numbers are growing. It is now globally the fifth most common cancer.
Liver cancer is a deadly disease and can affect anyone who has particularly a history of drinking or a family medical history of liver problems and hepatitis. The functions of the liver include metabolizing fats and carbohydrates and proteins, exuding bile and enzymes that help in digestion, and removing harmful materials from blood.
Liver cancer can be primary, meaning that it starts in the liver, or secondary. In the latter, the cancer spreads from a tumor in another part of the body such as the lung, colon, or pancreas. The cause of liver cancer has not been established but various risk factors have been associated with it. Principally hepatitis, cirrhosis, and smoking are linked to the development of liver cancer. It has also been recognized that an exposure to vinyl chloride, aflotoxin, and arsenic increases the risk of liver cancer. The use of anabolic steroids also increases the chances of this cancer.
The symptoms for liver cancer do not manifest themselves very early and sometimes there are no symptoms at all—making it difficult to diagnose the cancer. But when they do set in they show up as stomach pain varying in intensity, fluid build up in the stomach, unexplained weight loss, jaundice, and loss of appetite. If the liver is enlarged you can feel a lump on the right-hand side of your stomach under the ribcage. Nausea and vomiting also are symptoms and there could be bleeding if the tumor has ruptured.
You should let your doctor know about your entire medical history including any family problems with regard to cirrhosis or alcoholism or other cancers. The usual tests for cancer such as ultrasound, MRI, and CT scan will help in the detection of the tumor. Liver function tests that will check the enzyme level in your liver may also be suggested. A biopsy is also an option as the physician can determine from the results whether a tumor is present.
Like all cancers the prognosis is better if the disease is caught in its early stages. The treatment for liver cancer depends on the stage of the cancer and may include surgery, chemotherapy and radiation or a combination of these.
If you have any of the above symptoms then don’t neglect them. Seek medical expertise immediately. Remember that the sooner you get liver cancer diagnosed the better the chances are, especially since the symptoms don’t show up till much later stages.
To prevent liver cancer take care of your health and cut down on alcohol and smoking. Be vaccinated for hepatitis infections. Check the way your food is stored and processed and the proper treatment of drinking water to reduce exposure to harmful toxins. By avoiding known risk factors the risk of liver cancer can be reduced.
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