Liver cancer is a disease in which malignant or cancerous liver tissue cells are formed. Liver cancer can either begin from the liver (primary liver cancer) or start elsewhere and later be extended to this organ (metastatic liver).
The liver is the largest organ in the body and its most important functions are the following:
- Filter harmful substances in the blood so they can be transported from the body to the stool and urine.
- Produce bile to help digest fats from food.
- Storing sugar the body uses for energy.
Among the main risk factors when it comes to getting this type of cancer include hepatitis B and hepatitis C, consuming large amounts of alcohol, have cirrhosis, hemochromatosis, obesity or diabetes. However, it is only partially understood exactly how these factors can affect normal cells to become cancerous.
Cancers arise when deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA of a cell is damaged. DNA is the chemical in each of the cells forming genes. Besides gathering information on the physical aspect, the genes contain instructions on how they work, when to grow, divide and die cells. Oncogenes are genes that control their growth and division, and tumor suppressor genes, which slow down cell division or cause cells to die at the right time. The cancer may be caused by changes in the DNA which activate Oncogenes or inactivate the tumor suppressor genes.
Certain chemicals known to cause liver cancer by damaging the DNA of cells of the liver, such as aflatoxins, organisms produced by small concentrations of fungi. It is also believed that the hepatitis virus can damage DNA by carrying instructions on how to infect cells and produce more virus, though scientists still know not specify exactly how the infection occurs.
Ultimately, liver cancer has many different causes and there are a variety of genes involved in their training and development. A better understanding of how liver cancers contribute to finding better ways of preventing and treating this disorder develop.
It is possible that the patient has no symptoms until the cancer is already advanced, which greatly hinders treatment. Some of the most common signs of this disease, according to the National Cancer Institute are:
- Notice a hard lump on the right side just below the rib cage.
- Feeling of discomfort in the upper right abdomen and
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Pain in the area around the right shoulder blade or back
- Develop jaundice or yellowing of the skin
- Easy to bruise or bleed.
- Tiredness or weakness unusual
- Nausea and frequent vomiting
- Loss of appetite or feeling full after eating a small portion
- Weight loss for no apparent reason
- Intestinal evaluation pale limestone and dark urine.
Although not known with absolute precision the exact causes of this disease, according to the American Cancer Society itself can take a number of measures to combat the most common risk factors.
Prevent infection of hepatitis B and hepatitis C
When infection with hepatitis B and hepatitis C, the most common cause of this disease, the main way to prevent its appearance is the most important measures taken to avoid contracting hepatitis.These include hepatitis B vaccination, avoid sharing needles and adopt safer sexual practices.
Limit alcohol and snuff
Cirrhosis is another risk factor that increases the chances of developing liver cancer and also hepatitis B or C, the main factor that causes cirrhosis is alcoholism. Moderate drinking may reduce the risk of this cancer cirrhosis to be one of the most repeated risk factors. For the same reason, reduce the consumption of snuff could decrease the possibility of presenting liver cancer.
Conduct a healthy diet
The prevention of obesity through the adoption of healthy habits such as tracking a balanced diet and exercise training may prevent development of cancer.
Limit exposure to cancer-causing chemicals
While most developed countries have regulations and agencies to protect consumers of certain chemicals such as aflatoxins and arsenic that are known to be cancer enhancers, there are still countries where these chemicals can be present in certain foods or drinking water.
Treatment of diseases which increase the risk of liver cancer
Although many diseases that increase the risk of developing this cancer, such as liver cirrhosis, are hereditary and so prevention is very limited, the time to detect and treat these diseases may decrease the risk of developing liver cancer.
Most of the time liver cancer is detected the origin of liver cancer is not just another area of the body such as the pancreas, colon, stomach, breast or lung. However, these tumors are treated by primary site where they originated.
It is the most common type of primary liver cancer in adults and the third leading cause of cancer death worldwide, according to the National Cancer Institute. This type of primary liver cancer, sometimes called hematoma, follow different growth patterns. Some originate as a single tumor that develops only in advanced stages and spreads to other parts of the liver. Others start not as a single tumor, but with many small spots through the liver.
Cholangiocarcinoma or bile duct cancer:
These cancers start in the cells lining the small bile ducts; those that carry bile from the gallbladder, and make up 10 to 20 percent of cancers originate in the liver, as stated in the American Cancer Society.
Usually difficult to find cancer in its early stages because the signs and symptoms do not appear until the disease is in its later stages. On the other hand, small liver tumors are difficult to detect by physical examination because the right ribs cover most of the body. The result is that most liver cancers are diagnosed in its later stages. However, people who have a high risk for this disease, such as those with hepatitis B, hepatitis C and cirrhosis, can be tested frequently to begin treatment as soon as possible.
The first step in diagnosing this disease is a questionnaire by the physician to determine the risk factors and get as much information as possible about the symptoms presented by the patient. Then the specialist will perform a physical examination for signs of stopping liver cancer in the abdomen, the skin and the patient’s eyeball. If the specialist believes that there is a risk that the patient suffers from liver cancer, he sent a series of tests to more accurately diagnose the problem and determine the best treatment for this type of cancer.