Posted September 15, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 2 min read
Liver cancer is a life-threatening illness and one of the fastest-growing cancer types in the United States. There are two kinds of liver cancer: primary and secondary. Primary cancer starts in your liver. Secondary cancer spreads to your liver from another part of your body.
Causes of Liver Cancer
Liver cancer happens when something affects healthy liver cells’ DNA. DNA carries the genes that tell our cells how to function.
We all have genes that tell cells when to grow, multiply and die.
For example, oncogenes help cells grow and divide. Other genes, called tumor suppressor genes, monitor cell activity, keeping cells from multiplying uncontrollably and making sure cells die when they’re supposed to die.
When our DNA mutates or changes, our cells get new instructions.
In HCC, DNA changes turn on oncogenes and/or turn off tumor suppressor genes.
For example, studies show cirrhosis related to hepatitis B virus (HBV) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) account for more than half of all HCC cases.
When these viruses infect liver cells, they change cell DNA, turning healthy liver cells into cancerous cells.
Symptoms of Liver Cancer
A lump below your rib cage or pain on the right side of your abdomen, or pain near your right shoulder.
Jaundice (a disease that causes skin and eyes to yellow).
Unexplained weight loss, nausea, or loss of appetite.
Diagnosis of Liver Cancer
Healthcare providers may do blood tests for cancer, such as a liver function test, to check on liver enzymes, proteins and other substances that show whether your liver is healthy or damaged. They may test for alfa-fetoprotein (AFP). High AFP levels may indicate liver cancer.
This test provides pictures of your soft tissue structures. Healthcare providers use ultrasound to look for liver tumors.
Computed tomography (CT) scan
This special type of X-ray takes detailed images of your liver, providing information about liver tumor size and location.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
This test produces very clear images of your body using a large magnet, radio waves and a computer.
This test helps healthcare providers examine your liver’s blood vessels. During this test, your healthcare provider injects dye into an artery so they can track blood vessel activity and look for blockages.
Healthcare providers remove liver tissue to look for signs of cancer. Biopsies are the most reliable way to confirm a liver cancer diagnosis.
Treatment of Liver Cancer
Healthcare providers have several common treatments for HCC and IHC, including surgery to remove part of your liver, liver transplantation and liver-directed treatments like hepatic arterial embolization and ablation.
They may also use several types of chemotherapy, chemoembolization, radiation therapy, radioembolization, immunotherapy and targeted therapy.