Liver Cancer

What is liver cancer?

The liver is the largest organ in the human and is responsible for filtering blood or harmful substances that are passed out of the body as waste. The liver also produces bile, a solution that helps digest fat, makes numerous proteins, and stores glycogen (sugar) to provide the body with energy. Liver cancer is a harmful disease that begins when normal processes of cell division and growth are disrupted, giving way to abnormal, uncontrollable growth. The cells grow and accumulate into a mass (tumor). Primary liver cancer is when tumors originate in the liver, versus secondary liver cancer where tumors in the liver are a result of cancer that has spread (metastasized) from other organs. Tumors in the liver are either cancerous (malignant) or noncancerous (benign) and may metastasize to other organs in the body. 
Stages of liver cancer are:
  • Stage I: one tumor is found in the liver only. 
  • Stage II: one tumor is found, but it has spread to the blood vessels, OR more than one tumor is present, but they are all smaller than 5 cm.
  • Stage III: there is more than one tumor larger than 5 cm, OR the cancer has moved beyond the liver to blood vessels, another organ, or to the lymph nodes. 
  • Stage IV: the cancer has spread to other locations in the body, such as the lungs or bones, as well as blood vessels or lymph nodes.
Risk factors
  • Other liver diseaseshepatitis C or B (viral diseases that attack the liver) or cirrhosis (a disease that causes scarring) can lead to liver cancer.
  • Family history: patients with relatives who have/had hepatitis or liver cancer are more likely to develop the disease as well.
  • Gender: liver cancer is more common in men than women. 
  • Diabetes: diabetic patients have a greater risk of liver cancer than those who don't have diabetes.
  • Excessive alcohol consumption daily over many years can lead to severe liver damage and increase the risk of liver cancer. 
After a medical history and physical exam, a doctor may perform or order:
  • Blood tests may reveal liver function abnormalities.
  • Ultrasound (sonography) captures echoes of the internal soft tissue structures of the body and produces videos or images of them. 
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan is a special type of X-ray that takes detailed images of organs.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) produces very clear images of the human body using a large magnet, radio waves, and a computer.
  • Angiogram uses dye injected into an artery to show liver tissue and any tumors.
  • Laparoscopy observes the liver and other organs inside the abdominal cavity. A biopsy (removal of tissue for study under a microscope) may be done using a laparoscope and is the most reliable way to determine cancer.
Treatment decisions are based on the stage of liver cancer a patient has and is aimed to decrease signs and symptoms to help one live longer. Treatment options may include one or a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and other localized treatments
  • Each year in the United States, about 22,000 men and 9,000 women get liver cancer
  • About 16,000 men and 8,000 women die from the disease in the U.S. each year.
  • Hispanic men have the highest rates of getting liver cancer (20.1 per 100,000 men), followed by Asian/Pacific Islander men (18.4).
  • Among women, Hispanic women have the highest rates of getting liver cancer (7.7 per 100,000 women), followed by Asian/Pacific Islander women (7.6). 
about liver cancer

  • "Liver Cancer." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 Mar. 2016. Web. 27 June 2017.
  • "Liver Cancer." Liver Cancer Causes, Symptoms & Treatment | Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 24 Feb. 2014. Web. 27 June 2017.
  • "Liver Cancer." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 06 June 2017. Web. 27 June 2017.
  • "Liver Cancer." Stanford Health Care (SHC) - Stanford Medical Center. Stanford Health Care, 13 July 2016. Web. 27 June 2017.



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