Liver cancer originates from the cells in your liver. Several types of cancer can form in the liver. The two most common type of liver cancer are:
⠂Hepatocellular carcinoma, which arises from hepatocytes, the main liver cell.
⠂Cholangiocarcinoma, which arises from cholangiocytes or intrahepatic bile duct cells.
Cancers from other sites often spread to the liver, however, these are not considered primary liver cancers but are called metastases.
Most people don’t have signs and symptoms in the early stages of liver cancer. In more advanced cases, signs and symptoms may include:
Loss of appetite
Abdominal pain or bloating
Nausea and vomiting
Factors that increase the risk of primary liver cancer include:
Liver Cirrhosis – due to any cause such as hepatitis B, C infection, inherited liver diseases such as hemochromatosis and Wilson’s disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, excessive alcohol consumption.
Hepatitis B Carriers – hepatitis B carriers have a higher risk of liver carrier even without developing cirrhosis.
Lowering your risk of cirrhosis and liver cancer
Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver, and it increases the risk of liver cancer. You can reduce your risk of cirrhosis if you:
Drink alcohol in moderation
Maintain a healthy weight or body mass index.
Use caution with chemicals. Follow instructions on chemicals you use at home or at work.
Ensure you are vaccinated against Hepatitis B
Adhere to safe sexual practices.
Avoid intravenous (IV) drugs
Ask about safe practices when getting a piercing or tattoo or even going to the barbershop.
Liver cancer screening
Liver cancer screening is simple and involves an ultrasound scan and a blood test (alpha-fetoprotein) every 6 months, and has been shown to be of benefit to those to those at high risk of liver cancer, including people who have:
Advanced liver fibrosis and liver cirrhosis from any cause
Tests and procedures used to diagnose liver cancer include:
Blood tests – Cancer marker alpha-fetoprotein.
Contrast-enhanced imaging studies – such as an ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Liver biopsy – where a piece of liver tissue is extracted for laboratory testing in order to make a definitive diagnosis of liver cancer.
Treatment for liver is dependant on 3 factors:
⠂Stage of liver cancer – the size and number of liver cancers found.
⠂Stage of liver cirrhosis and hence residual liver function – defined by the Childs-Pugh Score.
⠂Performance Status of the patient
⠂Percutaneous Ethanol Injection/Radiofrequency Ablation
⠂Limited Surgical Resection
⠂Chemotherapy/Molecular Targeted Therapies
At gutCARE in Singapore, you have access to gastroenterologists with sub-specialist interest in liver cancer management. Speak to your gastroenterologist at gutCARE about liver cancer screening, diagnosis, and treatment today.