LIVER CANCER AWARENESS MONTH
Liver cancer is cancer that occurs in the liver. The liver is the largest internal organ and is located in the upper right area of the abdomen, right below the ribs. It performs several critical functions to help the body eliminate waste, absorb nutrients, and heal wounds.1
The liver also breaks down medications and toxins. When cancer develops in the liver, it destroys liver cells and interferes with the ability of the liver to function as expected.1
There are two kinds of liver cancer includes primary and secondary. Primary cancer starts in the liver. Secondary cancer spreads to the liver from another part of the body.2
There are main types of liver cancer as follows:3
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
- Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
- Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma
- Hepatic adenoma
- Focal nodular hyperplasia (FNH)
Rate of liver cancer in India for men ranges from 0.7 to 7.5 and for women 0.2 to 2.2 per 100,000 persons per year.
Liver cancer is the 3rd leading cause of cancer death worldwide, with over 700,000 deaths every year.4
Liver cancer symptoms and signs: 5
Most people may not have signs and symptoms in the early stages of primary liver cancer. When signs and symptoms do appear, they may include:
- Losing weight without trying
- Loss of appetite
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting with general weakness and fatigue
- Abdominal swelling
- Yellow discoloration of the skin and the whites of eyes (jaundice)
- White, chalky stools
Risk factors for Liver cancer:5,6
- Age: Adult liver cancer occurs most often in people older than 60.
- Gender: Men are more likely than women to develop liver cancer.
- Environmental factors: Some environmental factors may increase the risk of liver cancer, such as exposure to certain chemicals or eating food contaminated with aflatoxin.
- Chronic infection with HBV or HCV: Chronic infection with the hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) increases your risk of liver cancer.
- Cirrhosis: This progressive and irreversible condition causes scar tissue to form in your liver and increases the chances of developing liver cancer.
- Certain inherited liver diseases: Liver diseases that can increase the risk of liver cancer include hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease.
- Diabetes: People with this blood sugar disorder have a greater risk of liver cancer than those who may not have diabetes.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: An accumulation of fat in the liver increases the risk of liver cancer.
Common complications of end-stage liver disease include ascites, hepatic encephalopathy, spontaneous bacterial peritonitis, and esophageal varices.7 Some of the liver cancer complications that may occur after treatment are:8
- Hair loss and tiredness
- Abdominal pain and high temperature
- Nausea and constipation are the side effects of painkillers
- Loss of appetite and mouth sores
To prevent cancer from its severe effects, the following precautions must be taken:
Reduce alcohol consumption- Alcohol is the biggest enemy of the liver and causes various problems like hepatitis, cirrhosis, inflammation, etc. Therefore, people must try to reduce their intake of alcohol to keep their livers healthy for a long time.
Maintain a normal body weight- Obesity can be one of the biggest reasons for liver cancer. A normal BMI (Body Mass Index) must be maintained by everyone to minimize liver diseases.
Take measures to prevent hepatitis- Vaccines and drugs must be taken to prevent hepatitis, which can be one of the major causes of liver cancer.
Prevent intravenous drugs- Infected syringes; drugs can make a person prone to liver diseases like hepatitis C. Therefore, one must try to stay away from intravenous drugs as much as possible.
Treatment for Liver cancer:5
Treatments for primary liver cancer depend on the stage of the disease as well as age, overall health, and personal preferences.
- Surgery to remove the tumor: In certain situations, a doctor may recommend an operation to remove the liver.
- Liver transplant surgery: During liver transplant surgery, the diseased liver is removed and replaced with a healthy liver from a donor.
- Localized treatments-
- Heating cancer cells: Radiofrequency ablation heats and kills cancer cells using an electric current.
- Freezing cancer cells: Cryoablation kills cancer cells by freezing them to death.
- Injecting alcohol into the tumor: During an operation or through the skin, alcohol is injected directly into tumors. Alcohol results in the demise of malignant cells.
- Injecting chemotherapy drugs into the liver: Chemoembolization is a type of chemotherapy treatment that delivers potent anti-cancer medications directly to the liver.
- Placing beads filled with radiation in the liver: Tiny spheres that are loaded with radiation may be inserted into the liver and used to deliver radiation to the tumor.
- Radiation therapy: In this method, tumors are reduced and cancer cells are destroyed using powerful radiation from sources like protons and X-rays.
- Targeted medication therapy: Targeted drug therapies aim to stop these anomalies and have the potential to kill cancer cells.
- Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy is a cancer treatment that activates your immune system.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy is the use of chemicals to kill cancer cells and other fast-proliferating cells.
- Supportive (palliative) care: Palliative care is a type of specialist medical care that is used in conjunction with procedures like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy to relieve pain and other symptoms.
October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month (LCAM), #OctoberIs4Livers launched in 2018, is the first and only global campaign dedicated to public awareness, policy, education, and clinical practice needs to prevent and manage liver cancer. The campaign’s success in it has created a strong platform.9 The importance of raising public awareness of liver cancer is not only related to the fact that it is a major health problem and one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide, but also because liver cancer is associated with many liver diseases such as Hepatitis B and C, excessive alcohol intake, NASH, and NAFLD. It could be considered a sort of end-stage of these diseases. Therefore, it becomes very important to aware people of liver cancers and their preventive measures.10
- Liver Cancer. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/liver-cancer. Assessed on 29th September 2022.
- Liver Cancer. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/9418-liver-cancer.Assessed on 29th September 2022.
- What Is Liver Cancer? Available at:https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/about/what-is-liver-cancer.html.Assessed on 29th September 2022.
- Know all about Liver Cancer Treatment in 2022. Available at:https://drsandeepnayak.com/blogs/know-all-about-liver-cancer-treatment-in-2022.Assessed on 29th September 2022.
- Liver cancer. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/liver-cancer/symptoms-causes/syc-20353659#.Assessed on 29th September 2022.
- Liver Cancer: Risk Factors and Prevention. Available at: https://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/liver-cancer/risk-factors-and-prevention. Assessed on 29th September 2022.
- Complications of end-stage liver disease. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4721840/.Assessed on 29th September 2022.
- Liver Cancer: Symptoms, Complications, and Treatment. Available at: https://www.practo.com/health-wiki/liver-cancer-symptoms-complications-and-treatment/208/article. Assessed on 29th September 2022.
- Driving Equity in Liver Cancers. Available at: https://globalliver.org/octoberis4livers/. Assessed on 29th September 2022.
- Liver Cancer Awareness Month. Available at: https://www.eu-patient.eu/news/latest-epf-news/2020/liver-cancer-awareness-month/. Assessed on 29th September 2022.