Different types of cancers can arise from the liver, and the commonest amongst them are hepatocellular carcinoma, which arises from the liver cell or hepatocyte, cholangiocarcinoma (arising from the bile ducts) and hepatoblastoma, where the cancer mimics foetal liver cells .More common than the tumours arising from the liver are the tumours that arise from other organs and are spread to the liver.
People with hepatocellular carcinoma may not have any significant signs and symptoms .However many patients in the later stage have weight loss, loss of appetite, pain in the abdomen, nausea and vomiting, abdominal swelling and jaundice
Multiple risk factors are associated with an increase in the incidence of liver cancer. These include:
- Chronic infection with HBV or HCV
- Cirrhosis of liver
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Exposure to aflatoxins – this is a mould infecting crops and exposure to this can cause liver cancer
Getting vaccinated against hepatitis B reduces the risk of chronic hepatitis B and hence reduces the risk of cancer
Screening for liver cancer
Multiple blood tests can be done in the laboratory to screen for cancer of the liver, either primary or metastatic
Liver function tests show abnormalities.
Screening can be done for hepatitis B or C infections
Fibro test can be done to check for the quantity of fibrosis in the liver
Alfa- fetoprotein is a cancer marker and it rises in cases of liver cancers. The level of this cancer marker can also be estimated.
An ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is recommended to look for a mass in the liver
If a mass is seen in the liver, it can be subject to Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology (FNAC) or Liver Biopsy.
The extent of the liver cancer is diagnosed with the help of imaging techniques and then the treatment is planned accordingly.
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