Professional Opinion: The Most Telltale Symptom of Liver Cancer
Cancer treatments have made significant strides in recent years, which has contributed to an improvement in patient survival rates over the past three decades. According to the information provided by the American Cancer Society, “According to the annual figures released by the American Cancer Society, the likelihood of a person in the United States passing away from cancer has been steadily declining over the previous 28 years (ACS). From its highest point in 1991 to 2019, the most recent year for which data are available, the cancer death rate has decreased by 32% across the board, including both men and women.” The group did point out that “some of this decline appears to be connected to a rise in the percentage of patients with lung cancer who are living longer after diagnosis.” This is partly because more people are being diagnosed with lung cancer at an earlier stage.
Despite the significant strides that have been made, cancer continues to be one of the leading causes of mortality in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Cancer is the second greatest cause of death in the United States, but many different types of cancer can be prevented or caught early.” Liver cancer is one of the types of cancer that can be prevented or caught early. Choosing certain behaviors as a way of life can significantly up the risk. Even if there have been a significant number of cases eliminated, liver disease is nevertheless responsible for the deaths of many people each year. According to the CDC, “In the United States, around 25,000 men and 11,000 women are diagnosed with liver cancer each year, and approximately 19,000 men and 9,000 women succumb to the disease each year. The number of people in the United States who are diagnosed with liver cancer has been on the rise over the past few decades, but it is now beginning to fall. The United States of America has a lower incidence of liver cancer compared to other countries of the world.”
Recognizing the warning signs of liver cancer, seeking treatment at an early stage, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are all things that can help lower the risk. Consume This and Not That! Health met with cancer professionals who explained signs that should be on one’s radar and other information pertinent to liver cancer. As usual, we strongly encourage you to seek the medical counsel of your primary care provider. Continue reading, and make sure you don’t miss any of these sure signs that you’ve already had COVID to protect not only your health but also the health of others.
The liver is certainly one of the most essential organs that we possess. It can be found here “in the upper right corner of the abdominal cavity, just behind the diaphragm, and on top of the right kidney, the stomach, and the intestines. The liver is an organ that takes the form of a cone and is a dark reddish-brown color. It weighs about 3 pounds “According to John Hopkins Medicine, there is. The liver is responsible for over 500 essential functions in the human body, including the storage of nutrients, the breakdown and elimination of waste, the regulation of blood clotting, and the removal of bacteria from the bloodstream, which assists in the body’s ability to resist infections, and a great deal more. Maintaining a healthy liver is essential for maintaining your overall health.
According to Afshin Safa, MD, FACR, Associate Professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at the Leavey Cancer Center with Dignity Health Northridge Hospital, as well as Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at the Leavey Cancer Center, Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at the Leavey Cancer Center, “Hepatocellular carcinoma (also known as HCC) is currently ranked as the fourth leading cause of death worldwide due to cancer. However, the survival percentage for people whose tumors are diagnosed at an early stage and who receive therapy is quite favorable. On the whole, the prognosis of this aggressive malignancy is still dismal. The majority of persons who get liver cancer have a history of chronic liver illness (also called chronic liver disease). The risk of developing liver cancer in a person who has had chronic liver disease for a longer period is increased. Cirrhosis, often known as scarring of the liver, is the most frequent and deadly form of chronic liver disease. It is also the most common kind of liver disease.”
Beverly Hospital and the Los Angeles Cancer Network share what Ronald Tang, MD, a board-certified hematologist and oncologist at the Los Angeles Cancer Network, has to say about it: “Those who have cirrhosis of the liver, whether it be from excessive alcohol consumption, infection with hepatitis, or obesity, are at an increased risk of developing liver cancer. Abstaining from alcohol, eating a nutritious diet low in fat, and maintaining a healthy weight are all things that can help minimize a person’s chance of developing liver cancer. Hepatitis is a virus that can be spread through improper sexual contact as well as through the use of dirty needles.”
According to Dr. Safa, according to update, which is a free service for doctors that provide dignity health care,
“Hepatocellular carcinoma, often known as HCC, is a primary tumor of the liver that almost always arises in the context of chronic liver disease, specifically in individuals who have cirrhosis as a result of alcohol abuse or chronic hepatitis B or C virus infections. If cirrhosis was caused by drinking, it is of the utmost importance to treat the alcoholism and get it under control as soon as possible. Similarly, if a person’s cirrhosis is brought on by an infection such as hepatitis C, the infection must be treated to reverse the condition. Infections with hepatitis can be avoided by engaging in safe sexual behavior, avoiding sharing needles and syringes, and getting vaccinated against the disease. People who have liver cancer, particularly those who have had chronic liver disease, should abstain from alcohol and any drugs that could be detrimental to the liver. This is especially important if cancer has spread. Treatment of the underlying liver disease in patients who have cirrhosis (for example, antiviral therapy for HBV or HCV), immunization against hepatitis A and HBV (if indicated), and management of cirrhosis, which includes endoscopic screening and treatment for varices are all components of comprehensive care.”
It has been said by Dr. Tang that “It is difficult to detect liver cancer by screening since symptoms typically do not appear until the disease has progressed to a late stage or reached a significant size. People can be unaware that they have cirrhosis because the early stages of the disease are asymptomatic, and by the time symptoms appear, the liver has already reached a level where it is unable to recover. Patients who have been diagnosed with cirrhosis are required to undergo annual abdominal ultrasounds for screening for liver cancer.”
Dr. Safa continues, “Due to the absence of symptoms in individuals who have an early illness and the restricted surveillance for high-risk patients, liver cancer is usually discovered at a late stage in its progression. There are two reasons for this. It is predicted that less than one-third of patients diagnosed with cirrhosis will go through with surveillance for HCC. As a direct consequence of this, the majority of patients that are diagnosed have an advanced stage of their illness.” Dr. Safa further mentions, according to UptoDate, “If your physician has reason to think that liver cancer is present in your body, he or she will perform one or more of the following tests on you:
–Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT), ultrasonography, or other imaging tests Imaging exams produce still images of the interior of the body, which might reveal any abnormal growths there may be.
– Biopsy: This test requires the removal of a small sample of tissue from the liver, which is performed by a medical professional. Under a microscope, a second physician will examine the sample to determine whether or not it contains cancer.”
The yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice and scleral icterus), as well as abdominal pain, are common indications and symptoms of liver cancer, as stated by Dr. Tang. “Fatigue, you easily bruise, spontaneous bleeding, unintended weight loss, tea-colored urine, and overwhelming itching without a rash” are some of the symptoms that may be caused by an allergic reaction. According to Dr. Safa, “liver cancer does not typically show any symptoms of its own.”  A few people may experience symptoms such as a lump or moderate pain in the upper belly, the sensation of being full earlier than usual when they try to eat, or a reduction in their body weight. Some people may experience symptoms that are brought on by the liver condition they had before being diagnosed with cancer. As a direct result of cancer, these symptoms may become more severe or reappear. Among these symptoms is an enlargement of the abdomen or the legs, as well as a yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Liver cancer in its early stages may not have symptoms that can be seen or felt.” On the other hand, when the size of cancer increases, a person may begin to experience one or more of these frequent symptoms. It is essential to keep in mind that other health issues besides the one causing these symptoms could be to blame. Talk to your medical provider if you have any of these symptoms.
Liver cancer symptoms may include—
- Discomfort in the upper abdomen on the right side.
- A swollen abdomen.
- A hard lump on the right side just below the rib cage.
- Pain near the right shoulder blade or in the back.
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
- Easy bruising or bleeding.
- Unusual tiredness.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss for no known reason.
“Treatment modalities include surgery by removing the whole tumor if possible coupled with local treatments,” explains Dr. Tang. “Local treatments involve direct injection of chemotherapy into the liver cancer.” There are also new systemic therapies that have been approved by the FDA in the past two to three years. These therapies include medications that target the tumor’s ability to grow blood vessels and therapies that use the patient’s immune system to attack foreign tumor cells. Both of these types of therapies are effective in treating cancer. The overall survival rate for liver cancer at five years is about 20%; however, patients who are detected with liver cancer at an early stage have a survival rate of 35% at five years. Therefore, individuals who have risk factors of cirrhosis or hepatitis should undergo annual imaging of the liver to evaluate for liver cancer. Early identification, as is the case with the majority of cancers, boosts overall survivability over five years.
According to Dr. Safa, “The goal is to discover tiny tumors while they are less than one inch in size so that the full spectrum of therapeutic choices is available.” Patients with tumors that are diagnosed at an early stage and who receive therapy have a very good chance of surviving the disease. It is necessary to make several decisions before beginning therapy for liver cancer, including which treatment to undergo. Your treatment options will be determined by the stage of your cancer. It also depends on the state of your liver, or to put it another way, the severity of any liver illness that you had before being diagnosed with cancer. According to UptoDate, the various therapies include the following:
- Surgery – Liver cancer can sometimes be treated with surgery to remove the part of the liver with cancer.
- Liver transplant – A liver transplant is a type of surgery in which a doctor replaces a diseased liver with a healthy liver from another person.
- Ablation therapy – Ablation therapy is a procedure that can kill cancer cells in the liver. It does not involve surgery. Doctors can do ablation therapy in different ways. They can kill the cancer cells using focused radiation therapy, aka, stereotactic ablative Radiation therapy (SABR)
- Blocking cancer’s blood supply – Doctors can do a procedure called “embolization” to block off the blood vessel that sends blood to cancer. This keeps cancer from growing by “starving” it of its blood supply. Sometimes, the embolization procedure is combined with chemotherapy (“chemoembolization”) or radiation (“radioembolization”).
- Immunotherapy – This is the term doctors use for medicines that work with the body’s infection-fighting system (the “immune system”) to stop cancer growth.
- Chemotherapy – Chemotherapy is the medical term for medicines that kill cancer cells or stop them from growing.”