Liver cancer, as the name suggests, is cancer that starts in our liver. The liver is a big organ in our body. It is located just above the stomach, upper-right of the abdomen, and below our diaphragm. Liver is an organ that is vulnerable to several cancer varieties. Compared to other organs, cancer liver is more due to spread from other organs. In rare cases, only cancer develops within the liver cells. The condition is called metastatic cancer. This cancer started from other body part like the lungs, breast, or colon. It then spreads across the liver. For instance, a metastatic colon tumor starts within our colon. From there, it reaches and spreads across the liver. The oncology department of Medica excels in world-class treatment for cancer. We are driven by our collective medical experience spanning more than three decades. We have a multidisciplinary team approach to treating all forms and types of cancer. Our Onco-surgeons and oncologists get support from the latest technologies for cancer treatment. We also boast a line-up of highly skilled and experienced reconstructive surgeons delivering extensive treatment for our patients.
The liver comprises several cells and tissue types. These grow to become primary liver tumors. These primary cancers start as single lump. It can also start across multiple locations within the liver. Several tumors can develop at once. Patients with significant liver impairment are prone to multiple growths of liver tumors. The major categorised of primary liver tumor are:
Hepatocellular Carcinoma: Liver cells are largely made up of hepatocytes. These hepatocytes are responsible for liver cancer. They can be started in our liver and spread to the intestines, stomach, pancreas, and several other organs. Almost 75 percent of the liver cancer cases are due to hepatocytes. Patients with significant liver impairment due to alcohol addiction are more prone to hepatocellular cancer.
Cholangiocarcinoma: Also called bile duct tumor, this cancer starts in the small, tube-shaped bile ducts in our liver. The duct tubes are responsible for transporting bile between the gallbladder and liver. This aids in the digestion process. Cancer of the bile duct accounts for around 10-20 percent of total liver cancers.
Liver Angiosarcoma: This is a rare cancer of the liver. Angiosarcoma starts within the blood vessels of the liver. This type of liver cancer is only detected at an advanced stage. This is due to the swift and slow progression of cancer.
Hepatoblastoma: It is also a rare form of liver care. It is usually detected in case of children, especially those under three years of age.
Symptoms are usually non-existent during the early period of liver cancer. The major symptoms and signs of liver cancer include:
The majority of the cases of liver cancer have unknown causes. These occur in people without any underlying diseases or illnesses. In a few cases, chronic hepatitis infection can result in liver cancer at later stages. Some of the other common risk factors are:
Staging is a method utilized by doctors for providing severzal types of cancer diagnoses. There are four major stages of liver cancer. While earlier stage cancers are easier to fix, later stages cancers are more difficult. The treatment options are also dependent on the cancer stage. For instance, surgical removal of cancer depends on the stage and spread.
The various liver cancer stages are:
Stage I: This is the earliest stage of liver cancer. The doctor will find only a small tumor in your liver in this stage.
Stage II: The number of tumors is limited to one in this stage. However, the tumor has reached blood vessels. The number of tumors can also increase in this stage. But, their size is less than three centimeters in diameter.
Stage III: In this stage, the number of tumors grows exponentially. Some of them are bigger than five centimeters in diameter. Cancer can also spread from the liver to the bigger arteries. It can also reach other organs and the lymph node.
Stage IV: This is the most advanced stage of liver cancer. In this stage, cancer has reached the bigger organs such as the bones and lungs along with lymph nodes. All these organs can be impacted by this malignancy.
Liver cancer can be diagnosed with the following methods and tests:
Blood Test: A blood test can help detect abnormalities within the liver functionalities.
Imaging Test: These can include a CT scan, MRI, or ultrasound. The doctor can recommend these tests for better evaluation of cancer.
Biopsy: Biopsy involves the sampling of the liver tissues. This tissue is taken out for experimentation. Laboratory testing involves removing a liver portion for a more definitive liver cancer diagnosis. A thin needle is inserted inside the skin and reaches the liver. It then collects the sample for experimenting. The tissue is then analyzed in a laboratory for cancer spread and stage. Infection, bruising and bleeding can be side effects related to biopsy.
The treatment plan depends on various factors. These can be the stage or degree of liver cancer, age, and overall health of the patient. Other factors can include personal preferences and availability.
Surgery: Surgery is recommended based on cancer’s stage. The doctor will either suggest surgery or a liver transplant. The latter is suggested in case of extensive or irreparable damage to the liver.
Chemotherapy: This process utilizes chemicals for preventing and killing cancer cells. This prevents the replication of the cancer cells. Chemotherapy is generally systematic. Injections or pills are given that travel across our entire bodies.
Targeted Therapy: This therapy involves using targeted drugs. These drugs target the tissues or genes that are cancer-ridden. It is not like chemotherapy.
Immunotherapy: This therapy involves using drugs to boost the immune system. This boosted immune system attacks the cancer cells. As such, it is also different from chemotherapy.
Ablation Therapy: In this therapy, the malignancies are destroyed without removal from the body. Few options in this therapy are radiofrequency ablation, microwave ablation, ethanol ablation, and cryoablation.