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Address: 27 Welbeck Street, London, W1G 8EN
Tel: 020 7101 3377

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Liver cancer and tumours

Liver cancer is a major public health concern around the world, with many different forms and causes. The liver, one of the body’s major organs, serves several important roles, including toxin removal, digestive assist, and energy storage. Cancerous growths in the liver can disrupt these functions, resulting in major health consequences.

Types of Liver Cancer

The main types of liver cancer include:

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC): The most common form of liver cancer, originating in the hepatocytes, the main liver cells. It’s often associated with chronic liver diseases, such as cirrhosis caused by hepatitis B or C infection or alcohol abuse.
  • Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer): Less common, this cancer begins in the liver’s bile ducts.
  • Hepatoblastoma: A rare type that primarily affects children, typically diagnosed before age 3.
  • Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma: Rare cancers that start in the blood vessels of the liver and progress rapidly.

Risk Factors

Factors that can increase the risk of liver cancer include:

  • Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV)
  • Cirrhosis, which can result from alcohol abuse, NAFLD, and chronic HBV or HCV infection
  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), including its more severe form, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)
  • Aflatoxin exposure, a toxin produced by mold that can contaminate stored grains and nuts in tropical and subtropical regions
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Tobacco use
  • Obesity and diabetes

Symptoms

Liver cancer often doesn’t cause symptoms in the early stages. As the disease progresses, symptoms may include:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Upper abdominal pain or swelling
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • General weakness and fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • White, chalky stools

Diagnosis

Diagnosing liver cancer involves a combination of clinical evaluation, imaging, and laboratory tests:

  • Imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scans, and MRI can help identify tumors in the liver.
  • Blood tests, including liver function tests and alpha-fetoprotein (AFP) levels, a tumor marker for liver cancer.
  • Biopsy, where a tissue sample from the liver tumor is taken for microscopic examination to confirm the presence of cancer cells.

Treatment

Treatment for liver cancer depends on the stage of the disease, the patient’s overall health, and the specific type of cancer. Options may include:

  • Surgical resection: Removing the tumor from the liver, feasible in early-stage cancers when the liver function is good.
  • Liver transplant: Suitable for small, early-stage tumors when resection isn’t possible due to poor liver function or other factors.
  • Ablation therapy: Techniques to destroy tumors without removing them, suitable for small tumors.
  • Embolization therapy: Procedures to block blood flow to cancer cells, starving them of nutrients.
  • Targeted drug therapy: Drugs that specifically target cancer cells, causing less damage to normal cells.
  • Immunotherapy: Treatment that helps the immune system fight cancer.
  • Radiation therapy: Using high-energy rays to kill cancer cells.

Liver cancer is a serious health risk, particularly for people with underlying liver disorders. Early detection and intervention are critical to improving results. Reducing risk factors, such as controlling chronic hepatitis infections, reducing alcohol intake, and maintaining a healthy weight, can all help avoid liver cancer. Those at higher risk should have their livers checked on a regular basis.

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Address: 27 Welbeck Street, London, W1G 8EN

Telephone020 7101 3377