Liver Cancer Symptoms and Early Signs

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Liver cancer symptoms and early signs, such as jaundice, weight loss, gastrointestinal and digestive disorders, point to the possibility of liver cancer. Liver cancer is also known as hepatic cancer and it causes malignant tumors on the surface area of the liver. Liver cancer tumors grow inside the liver or on the outer surface of the liver affecting the tissues.

The liver is one of the most vital organs of the human body and is known to carry out more than 500 vital functions of the body. Liver functions primarily because of the presence of hepatocytes or liver cells. Liver cancer affects these cells and the tissues of the liver. The primary functions of the liver are synthesis of proteins, amino acids, cholesterol triglycerides (fats), bile and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). It also assists in gluconeogenesis, glycogenolysis and glycogenesis. The liver also helps in the breakdown of insulin, hormones, toxic substances and converts ammonia to urea in the urea cycle. It regulates blood pressure by producing angiotensinogen. It helps in storage of vital vitamins like vitamin A, D, B-12 and also stores minerals like iron and copper.

Thus, liver function is critical to the body and liver cancer can cause a major damage to this critical organ.

The term liver cancer refers to primary liver cancer and not secondary liver cancer or cancer that has spread from other organs to the liver. Liver cancer be of following types,

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is caused by viral infections like hepatitis B or C or cirrhosis due to alcoholism. This is one of the most common types of liver cancers.
  • Cholangiocarcinoma is a cancer that affects the bile ducts. It is found in 2 patients out of every 10 patients diagnosed with liver cancer.
  • Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma are rarer forms of liver cancers which affect the blood vessels in and around the liver. They can progress quickly and are extremely fatal as patients do not survive more than a few months without cancer treatment.
  • Some other types of liver cancers are hepatoblastoma which usually affects children and lymphoma that affects lymphatic cells in the liver

Liver cancer symptoms: Liver cancer is often brought to notice while conducting diagnostic tests for other gastrointestinal or stomach disorders. Liver cancer symptoms and early signs show up as consistent pain in the abdominal area, sensitivity to touch in the abdominal area, appearance of abdominal mass and nausea or frequent vomiting.

Liver cancer early signs are:

Jaundice: It is yellowing of the skin or eye membranes. It is severe with symptoms often accompanied with high fever and chills and high weight loss. It is caused by elevated levels of bilirubin produced by the liver. It is thrown out by the liver through urine. Often blackening or discoloration in stools is seen in patient with liver cancer. It also leads to dark yellow urination. It also causes itching of the skin as the bilirubin reaches the skin.

Abdominal mass and hepatomegaly: It refers to swelling or formation of lump mass around the abdominal area. Hepatomegaly is seen in patients where the liver becomes enlarged. It can happen due to increased toxicity or reduced metabolism by insufficient liver function.

Emesis: Emesis or vomiting or throwing up is common when any liver disorder occurs. Nausea, dryness or bloating of the stomach, are common liver cancer symptoms.

Weight loss and anemia: The liver is responsible for storage, synthesis and breakdown of a huge number of nutrients. Any impact on liver lowers these nutrients and hence causes sudden weight loss. Often the patients may become anemic due to lower production of red blood cells. Weight loss is accompanied by tiredness and over fatigue. Patients feel very weak to sit up or do any normal activity.

Liver cancer symptoms may be also seen as bloating, sweating or heavy perspiration, inability of wounds to quickly heal or wounds that bleed longer. Some more symptoms of liver cancer are loss of appetite, feeling of acidity, pain during bowel movements and presence of blood in stools or urine.

Liver cancer symptoms and early signs must not be ignored as liver is one of the most important organs of the body. Any liver cancer early signs must be diagnosed on time.

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