Liver Cancer: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment & Prevention

Medically Reviewed by Checkmark Medically Reviewed By: Dr. Sravanthi Sunkaraneni
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Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Liver cancer is a type of cancer that can develop in any part of the liver. The liver is a large organ located on the upper right side of the stomach. It aids in the digestion of meals and the elimination of pollutants. It can start (primary) in the liver or spread from another organ (secondary).

Cancers that spread to the liver are more common than cancers that start in the cells of the liver. Metastatic cancer begins in another part of the body, such as the colon, lung, or breast, and then spreads to the liver. This type of cancer is termed by the organ in which it first appeared, such as metastatic colon cancer, which refers to cancer that starts in the colon and spreads to the different parts of the body.

Symptoms of liver cancer

  1. An enlarged liver may feel as full under the right ribs.
  2. Abdominal (belly) pain or pain near the right shoulder 
  3. Swelling or a build-up of fluid in the abdomen
  4. Weight loss 
  5. Appetite loss 
  6. Upper abdomen pain
  7. Vomiting and nausea
  8. Weakness and weariness in general
  9. Swelling in the abdomen
  10. Discolouration of skin and the whites of eyes in a yellowish hue (jaundice)
  11. Pale stools

Causes

Liver cancer occurs when the DNA of liver cells mutates. The DNA of the cell is the material that has the instructions for all of the body’s processes. DNA mutations cause changes in these instructions. So, the cells may be out of control and eventually result in tumour formation.

Chronic hepatitis infections can be a cause of liver. However, liver cancer can occur in persons who have no underlying illnesses, and the aetiology remains unknown.

Risk Factors of liver cancer

  1. Excess alcohol consumption can lead to hepatitis and liver cirrhosis which has a greater risk of cancer
  2. Chronic infection: HBV or HCV infection that has been present for a long time. Hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection raises the risk.
  1. Sex: Men are at greater risk than women
  2. Liver illness: Hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease are two liver illnesses that can raise the risk.
  3. Saturated fat: Eating foods that are high in fats also increases the chance of the condition.
  4. Cholesterol level: High total cholesterol, high LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol), and low HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) are all risk factors
  5. Diabetes: People with diabetes have a higher risk of liver cancer than people who do not have diabetes.

Types

  1. Primary liver cancer: This is a type of cancer that starts in the liver’s tissue. Hepatocellular carcinoma and cholangiocarcinoma are the two most common kinds of primary liver cancer.
  1. Secondary liver cancer: This is when cancer spreads to the liver from other parts of the body.

Complications

 Complications related to liver cancer are as follows

  1. Anaemia, or a decreased red blood cell count, is a common liver cancer complication. It can be a result of a number of circumstances, including a shortage of clotting factors in the blood, which causes bleeding. 
  2. The liver produces bile. It is delivered to the small intestine by many ducts, either via the gallbladder or directly. Tumours of the liver or bile ducts can grow within a duct or exert pressure near one, causing bile duct obstruction.
  3. The liver is in charge of producing proteins (clotting factors) that aid in blood clotting. When cancer has taken over a big portion of liver, these factors are no longer produced in sufficient quantities. As a result, bleeding might occur.
  4. Another cause of bleeding from the digestive tract is liver cancer (and other liver illnesses). A tumour in the liver can make blood flow through the small veins in the organ that lead to the major portal vein difficult resulting in high blood pressure

Diagnosis of liver cancer

  1. Blood tests: Checking for blood clotting as well as the size and proportions of red and white blood cells in a person’s body.
  2. Hepatitis tests: This determines whether you have hepatitis B or C.
  3. Imaging: Ultrasound, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) or CT (Computerized Tomography) scans are utilized.
  4. Biopsy: A sample of abnormal liver tissue is taken from the body and examined under a microscope to determine its rate of growth.

Treatment

Surgery: The tumor is removed by surgery. If tumor is small and liver function is good, doctor may prescribe an operation to remove the liver cancer and a small part of healthy liver tissue that surrounds it.

Transplantation of the liver: Diseased liver is removed and replaced with a healthy liver from a donor during liver transplant surgery.

Heating of cancer cells: Radiofrequency ablation usually uses electric current to heat and destroy cancer cells. 

Freezing of cancer cells: Cryoablation usually uses extreme cold to destroy cancer cells. 

Alcohol injection into the tumor: Alcohol injection, pure alcohol is injected into tumors, either through the skin or while doing an operation. Alcohol results in the death of tumour cells.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can be used.

Prevention of liver cancer

  1. Lower the chances of developing cirrhosis
  2. Cirrhosis is liver scarring that increases the risk of liver cancer. 
  3. Limit alcohol consumption 
  4. Eating well and exercising most days of the week. 
  5. Reduce the number of calories consumed each day and increase the quantity of exercise 
  6. Diet should be low in saturated fats. 

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Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by Shabnam Sengupta

Disclaimer: Medical Science is an ever evolving field. We strive to keep this page updated. In case you notice any discrepancy in the content, please inform us at [email protected]. You can futher read our Correction Policy here. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website or it's social media channels. Read our Full Disclaimer Here for further information.

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