Symptoms are hardly seen in the initial stages. As the tumor size increases, it may cause pain in the right side of the abdomen. Some patients may have worsening symptoms of chronic liver disease or cirrhosis, which often precedes the development of cancer of the liver.
Some of the early warning signs of liver cancer include:
- Unexplainable weight loss
- Hepatomegaly (enlarged liver under the ribs on the right side)
- Pain in the abdomen or near the right shoulder blade
- Ascites (abdominal swelling)
- Fluid build-up in the abdomen
- Jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes)
Other common symptoms include:
- Fever unrelated to other conditions
- Enlarged veins in the abdomen
- Abnormal bruising or bleeding
- Decreased appetite
- Nausea or vomiting
- Splenomegaly (enlarged spleen felt as a mass under the ribs on the left side)
- White, chalky stools
- Feeling of fullness after a small meal
- General weakness or fatigue
Tumors in the liver produce hormones that act on other organs, causing:
- Hypercalcemia (high blood calcium levels), which presents with nausea, confusion, constipation, weakness, or muscle problems
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) leading to fatigue and fainting
- Gynecomastia (breast enlargement)
- Shrinkage of testicles in man
- Erythrocytosis (elevated red blood cell count) leading to redness and flushing
- Hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol levels)
What is liver cancer?
Primary liver cancer: This cancer starts in the liver. Primary liver cancer is of different types:
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (the common form of liver cancer)
- Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer)
- Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma (cancer that begins in the cell lining of the blood vessels in the liver)
- Hepatoblastoma (cancer occurring in infants)
Secondary liver cancer (metastatic liver cancer): Cancer that originates in another part of the body and spreads to the liver.
Benign liver tumors: Noncancerous tumors may grow large enough to cause problems, but they do not grow into nearby tissues.
Who is at risk of getting liver cancer?
People associated with the following conditions are at an increased risk of getting liver cancer:
What are the treatment options for liver cancer?
The treatment options depend on the stage and type of liver cancer. The most common treatment options include:
- Surgery: This option may be useful in removing part of the liver affected by cancer. Complications of surgery include bleeding, infection, or pneumonia.
- Liver transplant: This involves replacing the cancerous cells with healthy liver cells from a donor. Rejection of the liver transplant is the major complication of this method.
- Ablation therapy: This procedure involves using heat or laser to destroy the cancerous cells.
- Embolization: This technique uses a catheter to inject particles or beads into the blood vessels that supply blood to the cancer cells to block them. This kills the cancerous cells.
- Radiation therapy: Radiation of high frequency destroys the cancerous cells.
- Chemotherapy: Chemotherapy uses medications to kill cancerous cells.
Liver cancer can be prevented by following the below lifestyle modification:
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