Liver is the organ which is situated in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. The size of a football, it is located beneath the diaphragm and above the stomach. It performs the function of filtering blood that circulates in the body. It also removes chemical waste substances from the blood and prepares them for excretion. A type of cancer that can affect the liver is metastatic cancer which starts from other parts of the body such as the colon or lungs and then affects the liver. This is not called liver cancer. Cancer of the liver or liver cancer starts from the main cell of the liver, which is the hepatocyte. Liver cancer is also called hepatocellular carcinoma.
What Causes Liver Cancer?
- Hepatocellular carcinoma
- Congenital defects
- Chronic infection such as hepatitis B and C
- Hemochromatosis – this is a hereditary disease with too much iron contained in the liver
- Cirrhosis – scarring condition of the liver due to alcohol abuse
- Alcohol abuse
- Herbicides and chemicals such as vinyl chloride and arsenic
- Aflatoxins – these usually contaminate foods such as rice, wheat, corn and peanuts
- Thorotrast – this is dye used in medical tests
- Androgen and estrogen hormonal conditions
Liver Cancer Symptoms
- Yellow discoloration of eyes and skin: jaundice
- Itching caused by jaundice
- Chalky stools
- Upper abdominal pain in the liver area
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of weight
- Fatigue and weakness
- Abdominal swelling – due to the growing cancer
- Nausea and vomiting
Liver Cancer Diagnosis
A liver biopsy is at times imperative to confirm the type of cancer. A small liver tissue sample is taken and examined under the microscope for abnormalities.
CT Scan, Ultrasound or MRI
These tests detect the exact location and the expanse of the cancer.
Blood tests are conducted to assess the function and general health of the body and the liver.
If the above are not confirmative then a small incision may be done in the abdomen to take a closer look with a flexible telescope.