Liver Cancer

The liver is the largest internal organ. It lies under your right ribs just beneath your right lung. It is shaped like a pyramid and divided into right and left lobes. The lobes are further divided into segments. The liver continuously filters blood that circulates through the body, converting nutrients and drugs absorbed from the digestive tract into ready-to-use chemicals. The liver performs many other important functions, such as removing toxins and other chemical waste products from the blood and readying them for excretion.

Because all the blood in the body must pass through it, the liver is unusually accessible to cancer cells traveling in the bloodstream. The liver can be affected by primary liver cancer, which arises in the liver, or by cancer which forms in other sites and then spreads to the liver. Most liver cancer is secondary or metastatic, meaning it started elsewhere in the body. Primary liver cancer, which starts in the liver. Today there is no specific medicine for the cancer treatment. Because the liver is made up of several different types of cells, several types of tumors can form in the liver.

Some of these are benign (noncancerous), and some are cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body (metastasize). These tumors have different causes and are treated differently. Primary liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) tends to occur in livers damaged by birth defects, alcohol abuse, or chronic infection with diseases such as hepatitis B and C, hemochromatosis (a hereditary disease associated with too much iron in the liver), and cirrhosis. More than half of all people diagnosed with primary liver cancer have cirrhosis — a scarring condition of the liver commonly caused by alcohol abuse.

Hepatitis B and C and hemochromatosis can cause permanent damage and liver failure. Liver cancer may also be linked to obesity and fatty liver disease. Various cancer-causing substances are associated with primary liver cancer, including certain herbicides and chemicals such as vinyl chloride and arsenic. Smoking, especially if you abuse alcohol as well, also increases risk. Aflatoxins, cancer-causing substances made by a type of plant mold, have also been implicated. Aflatoxins can contaminate wheat, peanuts, rice, corn, and soybeans. These are rare problems in most developed countries like the U.

S. Other causes include the hormones androgen and estrogen and a dye formerly used in medical tests called thorotrast. Most people don’t have signs and symptoms in the early stages of primary liver cancer. When signs and symptoms do appear, they may include: Losing weight without trying, Loss of appetite, Upper abdominal pain, Nausea and vomiting, General weakness and fatigue, An enlarged liver, Abdominal swelling, Yellow discoloration of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice) White, chalky stools. It’s not clear what causes most cases of liver cancer. But in some cases, the cause is known.

For instance, chronic infection with certain hepatitis viruses can cause liver cancer. Liver cancer occurs when liver cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA — the material that provides instructions for every chemical process in your body. DNA mutations cause changes in these instructions. One result is that cells may begin to grow out of control and eventually form a tumor — a mass of cancerous cells. Types of liver cancer, Primary liver cancer, which begins in the cells of the liver, is divided into different types based on the kind of cells that become cancerous.

Types include: Hepatocellular carcinoma. This is the most common form of primary liver cancer. It starts in the hepatocytes, the main type of liver cell. Cholangiocarcinoma. This type of cancer begins in the small tube-like bile ducts within the liver. This type of cancer is sometimes called bile duct cancer. Hepatoblastoma. This liver cancer affects infants and young children. Angiosarcoma or hemangiosarcoma. These cancers begin in the blood vessels of the liver and grow very quickly. The most common type of benign liver tumor, hemangiomas start in blood vessels.

Most hemangiomas of the liver cause no symptoms and do not need treatment. But some may bleed and need to be removed surgically. Hepatic adenoma is a benign tumor that starts from hepatocytes (the main type of liver cell). Most cause no symptoms and do not need treatment. But some eventually cause symptoms, such as pain or a mass in the abdomen (stomach area) or blood loss. Because there is a risk that the tumor could rupture (leading to severe blood loss) and a small risk that it could eventually develop into liver cancer, most experts usually advise surgery to remove the tumor if possible.

The use of certain drugs may increase the risk of getting these tumors. Women have a higher chance of having one of these tumors if they take birth control pills, although this is rare. Men who use anabolic steroids may also develop these. Adenomas may shrink when the drugs are stopped. Tests and procedures used to diagnose liver cancer include: Blood tests. Blood tests may reveal liver function abnormalities. Imaging tests. Your doctor may recommend imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Removing a sample of liver tissue for testing. During a liver biopsy, a sample of tissue is removed from your liver and examined under a microscope. Your doctor may insert a thin needle through your skin and into your liver to obtain a tissue sample. Liver biopsy carries a risk of bleeding, bruising and infection. Liver cancer is not diagnosed by routine blood tests, including a standard panel of liver tests. This is why the diagnosis of liver cancer depends so much on the vigilance of the physician screening with a tumor marker (alpha-fetoprotein) in the blood and radiological imaging studies.

Treatments for primary liver cancer depend on the extent (stage) of the disease as well as your age, overall health and personal preferences. The goal of any treatment is to eliminate the cancer completely. When that isn’t possible, the focus may be on preventing the tumor from growing or spreading. In some cases only comfort care is appropriate. In this situation, the goal of treatment is not to remove or slow the disease but to help relieve symptoms, making you as comfortable as possible. Liver cancer treatment options may include: Surgery to remove a portion of the liver.

Your doctor may recommend partial hepatectomy to remove the liver cancer and a small portion of healthy tissue that surrounds it if your tumor is small and your liver function is good. Liver transplant surgery. During liver transplant surgery, your diseased liver is removed and replaced with a healthy liver from a donor. Liver transplant surgery may be an option for certain people with early-stage liver cancer. Freezing cancer cells. Cryoablation uses extreme cold to destroy cancer cells. During the procedure, your doctor places an instrument (cryoprobe) containing liquid nitrogen directly onto liver tumors.

Ultrasound images are used to guide the cryoprobe and monitor the freezing of the cells. Heating cancer cells. In a procedure called radiofrequency ablation, electric current is used to heat and destroy cancer cells. Using an ultrasound or CT scan as a guide, your surgeon inserts one or more thin needles into small incisions in your abdomen. When the needles reach the tumor, they’re heated with an electric current, destroying the cancer cells. Injecting alcohol into the tumor. During alcohol injection, pure alcohol is injected directly into tumors, either through the skin or during an operation.

Alcohol causes the tumor cells to die. Injecting chemotherapy drugs into the liver. Chemoembolization is a type of chemotherapy treatment that supplies strong anti-cancer drugs directly to the liver. During the procedure, chemotherapy drugs are injected into the hepatic artery — the artery from which liver cancers derive their blood supply — and then the artery is blocked. This serves to cut blood flow to the cancer cells and to deliver chemotherapy drugs to the cancer cells. Radiation therapy. This treatment uses high-powered energy beams to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors.

During radiation therapy treatment, you lie on a table and a machine directs the energy beams at a precise point on your body. Radiation therapy for liver cancer may involve a technique called stereotactic radiosurgery that simultaneously focuses many beams of radiation at one point in the body. Radiation side effects may include fatigue, nausea and vomiting. Targeted drug therapy. Sorafenib (Nexavar) is a targeted drug designed to interfere with a tumor’s ability to generate new blood vessels. Sorafenib has been shown to slow or stop advanced hepatocellular carcinoma from progressing for a few months longer than with no treatment.

More studies are needed to understand how this and other targeted therapies may be used to control advanced liver cancer. Prevention against the liver cancer is the most important and we must maintain our body by, Maintain a healthy weight, Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all, Use caution with chemicals, Get vaccinated against hepatitis B, Ask your doctor about liver cancer screening. We can’t live without liver. It has several important functions.

Works Cited * “Liver cancer: Symptoms – MayoClinic. com. ” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – 3 Feb. 2013 <http://www. mayoclinic. com/health/liver- cancer/DS00399/DSECTION=symptoms>. * Mayo clinic. “Liver cancer – MayoClinic. com. ” Mayo Clinic medical information and tools for healthy living – MayoClinic. com. Mayo CLinic. 3 Feb. 2013 <http://www. mayoclinic. com/health/liver-cancer/DS00399>. * MD, Tse-Ling Fong. “Medicine Net. ” Medicine Net. 1998. 3 Feb. 2013 <http://www. medicinenet. com/liver_cancer/article. htm>. * “Understanding Liver Cancer — Basic Information. ” WebMD – Better information. Better health.

3 Feb. 2013 <http://www.>. * “What is liver cancer? ” American Cancer Society :: Information and Resources for Cancer: Breast, Colon, Prostate, Lung and Other Forms. 16 Aug. 2010. 3 Feb. 2013 <http://www. cancer. org/Cancer/LiverCancer/DetailedGuide/liver-cancer-what-is-liver-cancer>. * “How is liver cancer found? ” American Cancer Society :: Information and Resources for Cancer: Breast, Colon, Prostate, Lung and Other Forms. 15 Dec. 2009. 3 Feb. 2013 <http://www. cancer. org/cancer/livercancer/overviewguide/liver-cancer-overview-diagnosed>.

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