Liver cancer is cancer that begins in the cells of your liver. Your liver is a football-sized organ that sits in the upper right portion of your abdomen, beneath your diaphragm and above your stomach.
Liver cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world and is now the fastest-growing cause of cancer death. It also occurs more frequently in men, with the disease affecting men about three times more often than women. The incidence rate of the disease is also increasing exponentially.
- Liver cancer diagnoses increased by 75 percent worldwide between 1990 and 2015.
- In the United States, the number of diagnoses has more than tripled since 1980.
The American Cancer Society estimates 42,030 new cases of liver cancer and intrahepatic bile duct cancer, which forms in the bile duct branches in the liver, will be diagnosed in the United States in 2019.
Liver cancer affects the body by forming too many cells where the body does not need them, which can create a tumor. It may spread to other tissues in the body through the blood or through lymph nodes. Liver cancer impairs the function of the liver, often causing jaundice.
Liver cancer happens when liver cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell’s DNA is 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.
Sometimes the cause of liver cancer is known, such as with chronic hepatitis infections. But sometimes liver cancer happens in people with no underlying diseases and it’s not clear what causes it.
How to Identify?
Your doctor may recommend imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, CT and MRI. Removing a sample of liver tissue for testing. Sometimes it’s necessary to remove a piece of liver tissue for laboratory testing in order to make a definitive diagnosis of liver cancer
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
- Abdominal swelling
- Yellow discoloration of your skin and the whites of your eyes (jaundice)
- White, chalky stools
What to Do?
Treatment for liver cancer varies. It depends on:
- the number, size, and location of the tumors in the liver
- how well the liver is functioning
- whether cirrhosis is present
- whether the tumor has spread to other organs
Your specific treatment plan will be based on these factors.