Liver cancer diagnoses have been on the rise for several years, but of late, we are beginning to view a nationwide decline in the number of cases. As awareness about cancer prevention and self-care spreads, we can only hope that this number becomes a small statistic within the world's population.
Well, what exactly does being diagnosed with liver cancer mean?
What is Liver Cancer?
Liver cancer is a form of cancer that originates from the liver and may spread to nearby regions of the body. You may be wondering what impacts this can have on the functioning of the liver, especially since liver cancer is not a common type of cancer. The liver is one of the largest organs within the human body and is located near the right lung.
Life without a functioning liver would be difficult because we rely on this organ to carry out a majority of our vital bodily processes. The liver is responsible for producing blood clots that seal a surface injury on the body, delivering bile to aid in digestion and absorption, breaking down toxins and excreting them, and metabolizing nutrients to be used as energy.
Liver cancer is divided into two diagnoses: primary and secondary liver cancer. Primary liver cancer typically refers to cancer that begins in the liver. The most common type of primary liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, a disease that may begin as a tumor or small cancerous cells within the liver.
The second category of the disease is secondary liver cancer, a condition that did not begin in the liver. Most of the time, this disease will originate from the stomach, colon, lungs, breast, or pancreas. Secondary liver cancer is known to be metastatic, meaning that it originated from another region of the body but has progressed to a stage where it has begun to spread to surrounding areas.
Symptoms and Risk Factors of Liver Cancer
One of the most common risk factors associated with the development of liver cancer is excessive alcohol consumption. As mentioned before, the liver is tasked with the removal of toxins within the body. Alcohol and similar drugs are considered toxins to the human body because they cannot be metabolized to produce energy.
Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to extra stress on the liver as it struggles to remove all wastes in a timely manner. This might also lead to excess toxin accumulation within the body if the liver cannot efficiently remove them. Through extra stress, the liver can become weakened and more susceptible to diseases such as liver cancer. Other conditions, such as diabetes, fatty liver disease, infections, and cirrhosis, may also increase your risk of developing liver cancer.
While studies have shown that liver cancer is not directly linked to genetic transmission between parents and their children, it has been discovered that family history can affect your likelihood. Family history can extend as far as your grandparent's and consist of all the medical conditions experienced by your family. For instance, if your family has a history of chronic liver diseases, it is highly possible that you may develop a similar condition in the future.
If you have a family history of liver diseases or have experienced a few of the associated risk factors, here are a few symptoms of liver cancer to look out for:
- Appetite loss
- Swelling in the abdominal region
- Chalky stools
- Abdominal pain
- Unexplained weight loss
- Unusual fatigue
- Jaundice of the eyes or skin
During the early stages, you may not experience any of these symptoms. Experts claim that it is difficult to diagnose cancer in its early stages simply because there are no visible signs of cancerous cells within your body. The key to successful treatment of cancer is early detection, but this relies heavily on frequent visits to the doctor.
Treating and Preventing Liver Cancer
Detecting liver cancer during its early stages is a difficult, but not impossible task. Even if you are not experiencing visible symptoms of liver cancer, it is important to recognize and inform your doctor of any risk factors that you may have. For instance, family history can convey vital information to your doctor that can aid in your prevention plan. In short, early detection of any disease requires a personal assessment of your wellbeing.
Regardless of risk factors, liver cancer can be prevented by implementing lifestyle or diet changes, exercising, and becoming vaccinated. If you consume alcohol on a frequent basis, consider reducing your intake to prevent liver scarring or damage.
Your gender can also have an impact on how alcohol affects your body. It is recommended that women drink at most, one drink per day while men can drink two per day. This is because alcohol can increase a female's risk for developing breast cancer, affect fertility, and even cause complications with menopause. Maintaining a healthy weight for your age and height can also play a role in preventing liver cancer. This can be done through exercise or simply eating a healthier diet.
While being vaccinated might seem like an unusual preventative measure for cancer, your risk for liver cancer can actually be increased by diseases, such as hepatitis B. If you have already taken all of the necessary preventative measures, your next step might be frequent liver cancer screening. Depending on your health and risk factors, your doctor may recommend that you undergo frequent assessments to detect cancer as it appears. This is not a definite preventative measure, but it can increase your treatment success rate if cancer is detected.
Depending on the stage of your cancer, you will be provided with an outline of treatment. In the early stages, this plan might consist of targeted drug therapy followed by chemotherapy. More severe stages typically require surgery to remove tumors in the affected region of your body and chemotherapy to ensure that the cancerous cells are destroyed.
Treatment may seem frightening at first, but it is important to remember that with each step, you are working towards living a cancer-free life. If you are feeling uncomfortable with your given treatment plan, it is absolutely fine to discuss alternative options with your doctor.
This article has not been paid for by any advertiser. Living.Guide does not endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. This content is intended for informational and entertainment purposes only and is not a substitute for professional advice or analysis.