October brings liver cancer into focus to increase understanding of the disease including its prevalence, approaches to screening and prevention, and treatment options.
The liver is the second most important organ in your body and is located under your rib cage on the right side. It weighs about three pounds and is shaped like a football that is flat on one side.
The liver performs many jobs in your body. It processes what you eat and drink into energy and nutrients that it stores for your body to use. The liver also removes harmful substances from your blood.
What is liver cancer?
Liver cancer, also known as hepatic cancer, is a cancer which starts in the liver, rather than migrating to the liver from another organ or section of the body. In other words, it is a primary liver cancer.
About 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with primary liver cancer each year. Primary liver cancer is one of the cancers on the rise in the United States. Primary liver cancer is about twice as common in men than in women.
What causes liver cancer?
There are several risk factors for liver cancer:
• Long-term hepatitis B and hepatitis C infection are linked to liver cancer because they often lead to cirrhosis. Hepatitis B can lead to liver cancer without cirrhosis.
• Excessive alcohol use.
• Obesity and diabetes are closely associated with a type of liver abnormality called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that may increase the risk of liver cancer, especially in those who drink heavily or have viral hepatitis.
• Certain inherited metabolic diseases.
• Environmental exposure to aflatoxins.
What are the symptoms of liver cancer?
Symptoms may include fatigue, bloating, pain on the right side of the upper abdomen or back and shoulder, nausea, loss of appetite, feelings of fullness, weight loss, weakness, fever, and jaundice (yellowing of the eyes and the skin).
How is liver cancer diagnosed?
A physical examination or imaging tests may suggest liver cancer. To confirm a diagnosis, doctors may use blood tests, ultrasound tests, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and angiograms. Your doctor may also need to do a liver biopsy.
During a biopsy, a small piece of liver tissue is removed and studied in the lab