Growth of malignant cells in the liver. The liver is the largest organ in the body and is located behind the ribs on the right side. Liver cancer can affect all ages, but is most common in men over 60.
FREQUENT SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The early stages may produce no symptoms.
Loss of appetite and weight loss.
Tender mass in the right upper abdomen.
Pain in the upper abdomen.
Low fever, usually less than 101°F (38.3°C).
Yellow eyes and skin (from jaundice).
Swollen abdomen from fluid retention.
Nausea and vomiting.
Tiredness or feeling of weakness.
Unknown. People with certain risk factors are more likely to develop liver cancer than others.
A primary cancer is when it begins in the liver.
A secondary cancer is when it results from the spread (metastases) of cancer from another place in the body. The most common sources are cancers of the rectum, colon, lung, breast, pancreas, esophagus, or skin (malignant melanoma).
RISK INCREASES WITH
Chronic viral hepatides B or C infection.
Liver disease, such as cirrhosis of the liver.
Long-term exposure to aflatoxin (a substance in fungus that grows on peanuts, corn, other nuts, and grains).
Men aged over 60 years.
Family history of liver cancer.
Certain inherited metabolic disorders.
Anabolic steroid (male hormone) use.
Cancer screening and hepatitis B vaccine for high-risk persons.
Avoid excess alcohol use (it can lead to cirrhosis).
Avoid risk factors such as smoking and steroid use.
This condition can be cured only if it is caught early, has not spread, and surgery is successful. In other cases, it cannot be cured, but treatment can help relieve symptoms and help a person live longer.
Scientific research into causes and treatment continues, so there is hope for effective treatment and cure.
Spread of cancer to other organs.
Death from loss of liver function.
DIAGNOSIS & TREATMENT
Your health care provider will do a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms. Medical tests may include blood studies and liver function tests. Other tests are usually performed in order to confirm the diagnosis and to determine if cancer has spread (called staging).
Treatment will depend on the stage of the cancer, your health, and your preferences. The main treatments involve surgery, chemotherapy (anticancer drugs), and radiation (less frequently). Since many liver tumors cannot be removed by surgery, alternate treatment forms are evolving. These include embolization, radiofrequency ablation, cryotherapy, and injections of alcohol. Your health care provider will discuss these options with you.
Surgery is performed only for cancer detected in an early stage. The cancer can still recur because cancer cells may have spread before surgery.
Liver transplants have been done in a few select cases.
Treatment may involve steps to relieve symptoms/make you comfortable, rather than treating the cancer.
Counseling may help in coping with this disorder.
To learn more: The American Cancer Society, 800-ACS-2345, website: www.cancer.org; or the National Cancer Institute at 800-4-CANCER, website: www.nci.nih.gov.
For minor discomfort, you may use nonprescription drugs such as acetaminophen. Stronger pain relievers will be prescribed as needed.
Anticancer drugs may be given.
Stay as active as your strength allows.
No special diet. Don't drink alcohol.
NOTIFY OUR OFFICE IF
You or a family member has symptoms of liver cancer, especially unexplained weight loss, low fever, or a mass in the abdomen.