10 Important Things To Know About Liver Cancer
The liver plays an important role in the body because all blood in the system passes through it. While acting as a filter for blood, it has several functions, including eliminating toxins and converting nutrients into useful forms. When cancer cells are in the blood, the liver is an easy target for infestation. As a result, many people acquire liver cancer metastatically after it spreads from other areas, although it can also originate in the liver itself.
As with all illnesses, it is important to maintain a healthy eating plan to help during treatment and recovery. Getting adequate vitamins and minerals is accomplished best through food, and patients must meet caloric needs with a balanced diet. When nausea and vomiting prevent challenges, a dietician or health care provider can help by providing suggestions and advice on how to remain healthy through nutrition. Weight and energy levels are often monitored and accessed.
The outcome of liver cancer depends largely on if the cancer is treatable and what that treatment involves. Other factors include how widespread the disease is within the body, the size and number of tumors, and the health of the liver and surrounding abdominal tissues. According to the American Cancer Society, there is a fifteen percent average five-year survival rate for all stages of the disease. This number varies among patients and the stage of their cancer.
Liver cancer and its subsequent surgery or therapy may cause pain, so it is important to use safe measures to manage any discomfort. Medication upon a doctor’s advice can help, and although side effects include fatigue and constipation, they can be remedied. Radiation acts to reduce the cancer and therefore can minimize pain. Injections of alcohol can help manage pain by blocking nerve function in the abdomen. Natural methods include relaxation, massage, and acupuncture.
In the medical field, there are not yet any naturopathic treatments approved, but some complementary therapies might help patients undergoing conventional options. Acupuncture has been shown to help with side effects like nausea and vomiting. Milk thistle is a herb with a history linked to liver health and mistletoe has been used as an herbal remedy. Caution should be made to preparations using alcohol and Ginko Biloba.
Treatment options depend on the stage of the cancer and the health of the patient’s liver. Surgery can remove a tumor if it is small and can have risks. A liver transplant is necessary when a small tumor is not able to be removed, and the liver is severely scarred. Ablation therapy is the process of killing cancer cells by heat, laser, or specific substances and embolization denies cancer of blood needed for its survival. Other therapies are radiation and chemotherapy.
Staging of liver cancer is based on how much the disease has spread. Liver cancer has the potential of spreading to the lungs, bones, and lymph nodes. If it does, and a new tumor affects another area, it does not take on a new name because the abnormal cells are the same cancerous ones found in the liver. Instead, it is called metastatic liver cancer and treated in a similar way. Tests determine if cancer has spread.
When symptoms arise, proper diagnosis can be made and is accomplished in several different manners. Blood tests measure the levels of alfa-fetoprotein and des-gamma-carboxy prothrombin, both of which, if elevated, are cause for concern. CT scans and MRIs allow doctors to see any abnormalities through medical imaging. A biopsy involves examination of a small sample of the suspicious tissue, but comes with the risk of bleeding, infection, and spreading of potentially infected cells.
Symptoms of liver cancer are similar to other conditions, so it is important to see a doctor for proper diagnosis. Often in the early stages, symptoms are not present, but later they include abdominal pain, bloating, a lump, a full feeling like after consuming a large meal, weight loss, fatigue, weakness, nausea and vomiting, jaundice, light-colored feces, dark urine, and fever. These symptoms can lead to serious conditions, and early diagnosis of liver cancer is critical.
Maintaining good health and taking preventative measures helps reduce the risk of liver cancer, but there are several risk factors and the more a person has, the greater the chances of developing the disease. They include long-term infection of hepatitis B or C, excessive use of alcohol, diabetes, storing too much iron, cirrhosis, obesity, and aflatoxin. A study on mice in 2014 found triclosan, found in soap and detergent, caused liver cancer in the lab animals.
Benign and Malignant
Abnormal growths in the liver are categorized as benign (non-cancerous) and malignant (cancerous). Benign rarely pose a threat, typically do not need to be treated, and can be removed. They include hemangioma, hepatic adenoma, focal nodular hyperplasia, cysts, lipoma, fibroma, and leiomyoma. Malignant liver cancer includes hepatocellular carcinoma, primary liver cancer, and cholangiocarcinoma, cancer affecting the bile duct). Hepatoblastoma are rare childhood malignant tumors. Malignant tumors are categorized as primary and secondary.