Cancer » Liver Cancer
Liver cancer is one of the popular forms of cancer and a considerable number of cases related to the disease are detected worldwide. It occurs rarely in the United States but has a significant presence in the rest of the world. It is the third most commonly occurring cancer in the world and is one of the deadliest. It is extremely necessary to undergo a thorough medical examination if you face any problems with the liver. The chances of survival in the cancer of liver are very rare and may prove fatal if not detected early. In the cases where the disease was detected in late stages, the survival period of majority of the victims was less than a year. Hence, it is important to understand the nature and causes of the disease.
Understanding liver cancer
Liver is the largest organ of human body and is vital in many respects. It performs the most important function of blood filtration and also converts the drugs and nutrients into useful chemicals necessary for the body. It also performs a vital role in removing chemical wastes and toxins from the body. Hence, presence of cancerous cells in liver may infect blood and cause severe damage to the whole or part of the body. Thus, the number of deaths in this cancer is very high and the chances of curing the disorder completely are rare.
Liver cancer can be primary or secondary depending upon the location of the origin of cancer cells. Primary cancer is the one in which the cancerous cells originate in the liver itself and spread to other parts of the body at a later stage. In secondary cancer, the cancerous cells originate in a location other than the liver and reach the liver after they start spreading to different organs.
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of cancer of the liver. Liver consists of various types of cells like fat storing cells, bile ducts and blood vessels. But almost 80% of the liver is occupied by important form of cells known as hepatocytes. The cancerous cells mainly target the hepatocytes. Hence, most of the primary cancer cases of liver (about 90-95%) are detected in these cells.
Cholangiocarcinomas is another important type of cancer of the liver. It is also known as bile duct cancer as it starts primarily in the biles. Almost 15-20% of the overall cancer cases of liver belong to this group. Angiosarcomas and hemangiosarcomas are some other rare types of liver cancer. They originate primarily in the blood vessels and spread to other parts in a short span of time. Hepatoblastoma is a type of cancer of the liver that occurs mostly in children below 5 years of age. The success rate of treating this disease is very high.
The cancerous or malignant cells target the tissues formed by the hepatocytes. These malignant cells invade and damage the healthy tissues and prevent them from functioning normally. The main function of the tissues is to provide blood and oxygen to different areas of the body. If the tissues are invaded by the cancerous cells, the overall cell-growth mechanism comes to a standstill. Obstruction in cell-development process may also lead to many other disorders and damage the body internally.
Tumors can be malignant or benign depending upon the nature of their intensity. Benign tumors usually do not spread and restrict themselves to the area of their origin. They do not harm tissues or obstruct the cell-growth process. They can be cured completely and recur rarely. The malignant tumors are highly dangerous as they metastasize. They are difficult to cure as they spread rapidly and damage healthy tissues and cells. These cancerous cells spread mainly through the lymph nodes and bloodstream and have high chances of recurrence even when treated previously.
Basic points to remember
Males are more prone to the liver cancer as compared to females. Obesity may put a person at a slightly higher risk of being a victim of the disease. Age is an important factor and people above 50 years of age are more vulnerable to the liver disorder. Also, persons with previous family history of the disease should go through a regular medical check-up. Infection by hepatitis B and hepatitis C virus may lead to gradual development of malignant cells if not cured completely.
I-carnitine deficiency, cirrhosis of the liver, smoking, consuming water containing arsenic and diabetes are some of the indirect causes of cancer of the liver. Having a strong immunity system is a must. Weak immunity system makes the body more vulnerable to infections and disorders and gives an opportunity to cancerous cells to develop without any considerable resistance. You must include salads, fresh vegetables and fruits in your daily diet and have a balanced diet. Avoid oily food or food high in fat content as it may lead to obesity. Also, regular exercise is necessary to keep your body fit and flexible.
Abdominal pains and jaundice are some of the basic symptoms of the disease. Enlargement of liver, unexpected weight loss, fatigue or loss of appetite must be taken seriously. Anemia and frequent fever is also another alarming indication of the presence of tumor cells. Internal bleeding, dark urine, pale stool and night sweats are some other warnings to visit a physician.
Liver cancer must be treated urgently to gain the maximum benefits of the treatment. Various types of medical tests like biopsy, X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI scan), computed tomography scan (CT scan), fine needle aspiration (FNA), surgical biopsy or laparoscopy are some of the techniques used to detect the nature and intensity of the cancer. In some cases, angiography and ultrasound is also recommended. Radiotherapy, surgery, liver transplantation and chemotherapy are some of the common treatments recommended. Diagnosis techniques to be adopted and the line of treatment may vary from person to person and depends on the victim's sustainability to the treatment.