Liver cancer is a malignant disease that occurs mainly in men 50–60 years old. It includes primary and metastatic cancer. Primary neoplasms are rare, progress rapidly and have an unfavourable prognosis. According to the statistics, liver oncology ranks 5th among all cancerous diseases. About 500 thousand patients all over the globe are diagnosed with the disease annually. Men over the age of 45 are more likely to develop it.
The causes of primary cancer are unknown, but the pathology is often connected with:
- Genetic predisposition.
- Unfavourable ecology.
- Viral, chronic hepatitis.
- Alcohol consumption.
- Aflatoxin exposure.
An important role is given to drugs (anabolic drugs, estrogen-containing drugs, vinyl chloride), carcinogenic products, and X-ray contrast substances. The probability of transformation of a benign hepatocellular adenoma into a malignant one is only 10%.
Forms of liver cancer
The following tumour types are distinguished histologically:
- Hepatocellular liver cancer. A tumour consists of liver cells, therefore, it is similar in structure to the liver. Usually, it does not spread metastases to neighbouring organs.
- Cholangioma is a malignant tumour of the cells of the biliary tract. This type of tumour metastasizes to the lymph nodes and lungs.
- Hepatocholangioma (mixed form).
Liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) is the most common form. In 80% of cases, it develops in patients with cirrhosis of the liver (the outcome of hepatitis B and C and hereditary hemochromatosis).
Due to its functions, the liver is more often affected as a result of a metastatic process. Liver metastases are detected if the tumor has initially developed in the cervix uteri, lungs, mammary gland or colon. Metastases in the liver are detected at the 4th stage of the oncological process. They enter the liver through the bloodstream.
Symptoms of liver cancer
At the early stages, nothing bothers a patient. At this stage, carcinoma is detected with the help of ultrasound. Complaints arise only at the later stages. The clinical picture includes both general symptoms that are characteristic of all malignant tumours, and local, associated with liver damage:
- Pain on the right under the ribs.
- Weight loss.
- The yellowness of sclera and skin.
- Spider veins on the abdomen.
With a significant increase in the organ size, there is heaviness under the right ribs that aggravate with food intake. With a tumour that is localised close to the capsule of the liver, severe pain occurs. Over time, injections of analgesics are required, sometimes several times a day. Irradiation of pain to the back is often noted. Signs of liver failure and ascites appear in cases of cirrhosis.
How liver cancer is diagnosed
The main problem is that at the early stages of the disease there are no obvious symptoms. Patients seek the advice of a specialist only when pronounced signs appear. When liver cancer is detected (stage 4), life expectancy is months. Patients at risk (with hepatitis and cirrhosis) have the opportunity to detect a neoplasm at the early stages. Among modern methods of radiation diagnosis are:
- Ultrasound examination
- Spiral CT
- CT scan with a contrast agent
- Liver blood test
Ultrasound of the abdominal cavity is the easiest and most affordable method. With its help, liver cancer is detected at an early stage in 60-80% of cases. To determine whether metastases in bones are present, radioisotope scintigraphy is performed.
How we can treat liver cancer
The breadth of possibilities and the choice of treatment options depend on the stage of the oncologic process and the degree of liver damage. If the size of the tumour and significant violations of the function of the organ do not provide the opportunity to perform a surgical operation, non-surgical treatment is recommended. These include:
- Local destruction is indicated for small neoplasms (within 3–5 cm). For this, the intratumoral introduction of ethanol, radiofrequency ablation, and microwave coagulation are used.
- With on-site formations, the surgical method or radiofrequency ablation, as well as the use of drugs that partially prevent tumour progression, are effective.
Other modern types of treatment for liver cancer include:
- Intrahepatic irradiation
- Treatment with the help of chemical methods
Where you may undergo treatment for liver cancer abroad
Modern medicine does not stand still and today you can cure liver cancer abroad easily. For this, the Booking Health service works. With it, patients with liver cancer can find a suitable clinic for themselves. Choose a diagnostic centre, learn about all liver cancer treatment programmes and choose a doctor for yourself. Leaving a request on the site, you will receive a call from a patient case manager and discuss with him all your questions, including liver cancer treatment costs.
Simona LeVey did her degree in psychology at Tel Aviv University. She is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.