What to look for
Like most cancers, liver
cancer usually has no initial symptoms, but may eventually cause:
In the advanced stage,
symptoms may also include fever, appetite and weight loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue,
general weakness, and loss of libido.
The livers job is to
filter the circulating blood. It converts nutrients and drugs absorbed in the digestive
tract into chemicals that the body can use straight away. Another job it has is to remove
toxins and other chemical waste products from the blood and gets them ready for excretion.
All the blood in the body must pass through the liver, therefore, it is very accessible to
cancer cells travelling in the bloodstream. Unfortunately, the liver cannot cleanse itself
Very rarely does cancer
start in the liver, normally liver cancer is secondary, (meaning the tumour originated
elsewhere in the body).
When primary liver cancer
does occur, it tends to result from livers damaged by congenital defects or diseases such
hepatitis B and C, and cirrhosis. In fact, most people told
they have primary liver cancer already have cirrhosis.
There are some carcinogens
which are linked with primary liver cancer, these are some cholesterol-lowering drugs,
herbicides, and other chemicals such as vinyl chloride and arsenic.
If you believe you are in a
high risk group, it is wise to speak with your doctor who may perform a liver test on you.
Liver cancer is not easy to
treat or to cure. Primary liver cancer is not usually detected early, when it is most
treatable and secondary liver cancer has already spread so it is also difficult to treat.
Most therapy centres on improving the patients quality and length of life.
If the tumour is caught
early enough, surgery may be possible and this is the patients best chance of being
cured. Unfortunately, when most cancers are diagnosed it is almost too late, either the
cancer has spread too much or the liver is too badly diseased to be saved.
Radiation or chemotherapy
can often be used to reduce the size of the tumours to a size which is able to be operated
on. Patients in remission must be monitored closely in case of a recurrence.
(See Cancer for more
information on treatments.)
that may help relieve some of the pain include massage, relaxation techniques,
hypnotherapy, and acupuncture.
immunised against hepatitis B.
Only drink alcohol in
Before taking iron supplements, check with a doctor to make sure you
really need them as overdosing on these has been linked to liver cancer.
Do not use anabolic
steroids unless medically necessary.
When to seek further