Liver Cancer Detection

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Liver cancer detection is possible if one is aware about liver cancer, its causes and the risks it poses. Liver cancer is a disease that causes cancerous tumors, which affect the liver and adjoining organs as well as arteries, veins, ducts and lymph nodes of the liver. Liver is a primary organ of the body. It controls and does a wide variety of body functions. These include tasks like generating digestive enzymes and controlling protein and hormone levels. If there is any disturbance in the functioning of the liver, it creates a negative impact on the body. The impact can be fatal and might lead to death of the patient.

Liver cancer is caused by cirrhosis or damage to the liver structure. Recurrent diseases like gastrointestinal disorders and infections can damage the liver. Diseases such as Hepatitis B and C too can alter the functioning of liver cells. Carcinogens in alcohol cause similar effect. These diseases damage the DNA of liver cells making them grow and divide rapidly. This causes slow damage and tumors on the liver structure. At times, the tumors also invade the nearby organs.

The effects of liver cancer are seen late therefore it isn't a surprise that detection of liver cancer occurs late. Liver cancer causes symptoms that are similar to many other diseases, making it difficult to differentiate the cancer from other diseases. Liver cancer detection is possible if one observes the symptoms of liver cancer. The symptoms of liver cancer are as follows:

  • Pain similar to that caused by other digestive and abdominal disorders
  • Occurrence of signs like chronic acidity, bloating, gases and pain in bowel movements due to liver damage
  • Liver cancer causes imbalance of bilirubin. This substance is thrown out in the form of frequent yellow urination or dark stools. This can lead to a severe case of jaundice. Jaundice causes yellowing of the eyes and the skin.
  • An imbalance in essential biochemical's and enzymes produced by the liver also leads to symptoms such as nausea, emesis or vomiting and itching
  • Liver cancer invariably damages the digestive cycle. This leads to weight loss and anemia. Fever, sweating and chills are common if liver cancer is present
  • Liver cancer tumors may cause abdominal pain as well as a visible abdominal mass or an increase in size of the liver or hepatomegaly

Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), hemangiosarcoma, angiosarcoma and cholangiocarcinoma are types of liver cancers that show such symptoms. Since symptoms are common across other diseases and all types of liver cancers, mere observation cannot decide the disease or type of cancer. This is why liver detection must be done with help of diagnostic tests.

Diagnostics for liver cancer detection:

A doctor uses several diagnostics results to come to a conclusion about the presence of liver cancer and its types. Liver cancer can be diagnosed with the following tests:

X-Ray Tests: X-rays can provide 2 dimensional imagery of the liver structure especially when done with help of fluoroscopic materials such as barium.

MRI Test: Magnetic Resonance Imaging is imaging technique that can provide both 2 dimensional as well as 3 dimensional images of the liver and help in detection of liver tumors.

Blood Test: Blood tests rely on markers such as presence of bilirubin and alkaline phosphatase levels to predict the possibility of an abdominal disorder. However, they may not be sufficient to conclusively prove the presence of liver cancer. The results of such tests are combined with tests like MRI, urine and stool tests to differentiate from other disease.

Ultrasound and Endoscopic Tests: Using the miracle of endoscopy a doctor can actually view the internal organs such as the liver, bile ducts and colon. A video camera inserted through a tube in the patient's body provides live images that can point to presence of tumors. Ultrasound can differentiate between normal and cancerous tissues as well as disclose damage to liver lining.

Liver Biopsy Test: This a surgical operation in which a small tissue of the suspected area is removed. The tissue sample is analyzed to disclose the type of the liver cancer.

World over new techniques are being sought to screen liver cancer even before it occurs. This can greatly help liver cancer detection before the patient actually suffers from liver cancer. Liver cancer screening is targeted for specific conditions such as the following:

  • Specific ages such as older people and people from particular races and ethnicities where liver cancer is highly prevalent
  • People with issues such as alcoholism and smoking
  • People who have higher chances of acquiring Hepatitis B or C such as drug addicts, sex workers and people from countries where hepatitis is highly prevalent
  • People who have a family history and genetic predisposition for liver cancer

Screening is done on a regular basis such as blood tests that indicate hepatitis and traces of alcohol related carcinogens in urine tests. Research is still on to discover cancer causing DNA or genomes. Alterations in the DNA can provide a screening methodology for the future.

Thus, liver cancer detection is possible if you observe symptoms and take care for liver cancer to not miss out on important diagnostic tests. Do help in the screening of liver cancer.

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