The liver is one of the largest organs in the body, it is located at the right upper quadrant of the abdominal cavity, it rests just below the diaphragm, to the right of the stomach and overlies the gallbladder.
The liver can be affected by different kinds of cancer. A common cancer that affect the liver is a hepatocellular carcinoma, this type of cancer starts from the hepatocyte (liver cell).
Cancer that spreads from other organs to the liver is called metastatic cancer.
Possible Causes of Liver Cancer
Viral infection: hepatitis B virus has been linked to hepatocellular carcinoma cases. Hepatitis B virus can induce inflammation in the liver and also cause liver cirrhosis.
Aflatoxins are the poisonous substance that are produced by poorly stored crops, which can cause different types of cancer including liver cancer.
Other risk factors include
- liver fluke
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
Symptoms of liver cancer include:
- Losing weight
- Loss of appetite
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- General weakness and fatigue
- Abdominal swelling
- Yellow discoloration of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
- Liver enlargement
- White, chalky stools
Diagnosis of Liver Cancer
A doctor will first take a medical history and examine the patient before ordering the necessary test to confirm the diagnosis. Some useful tests include:
- Blood tests to screen for hepatitis B and also measure the level of bilirubin in the blood
- MRIs and CT scan
- Ultrasound scan
- Liver biopsy
- Laparoscopy in some case
Liver Cancer Treatment
Surgery to remove tumor: the surgeon may suggest the removal of some healthy part of the liver along side with the tumor, this is done when the liver is still very healthy.
Radiofrequency ablation: this involves the use of electrical current to directly heat and destroy the cancer cell, using CT scan as a guild; the procedure is carried out by inserting one or more needles into a small incision in the abdomen.
When the needles come in contact with cancer it is used to electrically heat it to destroy the cancer cells.
Cryoablation: this is the destruction of cancer cells with the use of extreme cold, the instrument used in this process is called cryoprobe, and the instrument contains nitrogen liquid which is directly used to freeze the cancer cells to kill them.
Chemoembolization: this method of treating liver cancer by using local chemotherapy embolic agent. A cytostatic drug is injected into the artery that supplies blood to the tumor, causing the closure of its lumen.
Targeted therapy: this therapy slows the growth of a cancerous tumor, thereby interfering with the progression of the disease.
Targeted therapy works by using drugs that suppress angiogenesis – the formation of new blood vessels that supply blood to the tumor tissue.
Radiation therapy: this treatment is administered with the help of high powered x-ray energy and protons to target and kill the cancer cell
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT): SBRT is a term that describes several methods of delivering high doses of radiation to a tumor while limiting the amount of radiation to which healthy tissues are exposed.