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Liver Cancer

Symptoms, risk factors and treatment of liver cancer

Liver cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the world, and is one of the most serious. There are two types -- hepatocellular liver cancer, which means the cancer started in the liver, and metastatic liver cancer, where the cancer began elsewhere and then moved into the liver. Of the two, metastatic liver cancer is more common.

Unfortunately, liver cancer is one of the most fatal types of cancer. It is also on the rise across the world, affecting roughly 500,000 people or more each year.

Liver Cancer Symptoms

Cancer of the liver doesn't have any specific symptoms in the early stages, which is why it often proves fatal. It is generally not discovered until it is already in advanced stages. Cirrhosis of the liver, a separate condition, is often a warning sign, as is unusual weight loss and unexplained fevers. Both are often symptoms of worsening of cirrhosis of the liver, however, which can lead to an overlooked diagnosis.

Symptoms that may arise with advanced liver cancer include:

  • Abdominal pain on the right side
  • Pain in the right shoulder blade
  • Fever
  • Unexplained fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting

Liver Cancer Risk Factors

There are many separate conditions that can cause an increased risk for liver cancer. These include:

  • Undiagnosed Hepatitis B and C
  • Chronic alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications and drugs, such as estrogen hormones and anabolic steroids
  • Hemochromatosis (too much iron in the body, including the liver)
  • Cirrhosis

Diabetes and obesity have also been identified as risk factors for liver cancer, as they can lead to a buildup of fat in the liver. The rise in these conditions parallels that of liver cancer in the US.

Liver Cancer Treatment

Liver cancer has proven resistant to certain treatments that have worked on other forms of cancer, such as chemotherapy, proton beam therapy and more. The most common treatment for liver cancer is surgery to remove part or all of the diseased liver. In most cases, the whole liver is removed and a new one is put in, as side conditions like cirrhosis have destroyed the entire organ beyond the area where the tumor is located.

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