What Should You Know About Liver Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment?
If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with hepatic cancer, more commonly known as liver cancer, you may still be reeling from this news and wondering about the future. Unlike some well-known types of cancer (such as breast, pancreas or prostate), hepatic cancer is fairly uncommon, and you could find yourself desperately scrambling for more information about what is to come. Read on to learn more about some of the signs and symptoms that may be attributable to your hepatic cancer, as well as some of the treatment options intended to eradicate cancer cells and send you into remission.
What Causes Liver Cancer?
There are several types of hepatic cancer, either originating in the liver (hepatocellular carcinoma) caused by alcohol abuse, hepatitis B or C infection, or liver cancer coming from another cancer (metastasis). One of the more common metastatic cancers is from the colon.
In many cases, you may be able to pinpoint a certain cause (or set of causes) of your cancer, but sometimes the root cause may remain unknown. If you’ve always taken care of your liver and are at a loss to explain your cancer diagnosis, it may be worthwhile to do a bit of digging into your family history to see whether other relatives have dealt with this type of cancer (or even to suggest that younger relatives have their white blood cell counts tested to rule out this illness themselves).
What Are Some Signs and Symptoms of Liver Cancer?
The symptoms of liver cancer can often overlap with other liver issues, like hepatitis or cirrhosis. Unexplained weight loss combined with chalky or clay-colored stools or vomiting could indicate a disturbance in your liver’s function, while severe mid-to-lower back pain, stomach pain that tends to be concentrated on your right side, or yellowing of your skin or the whites of your eyes should send you to a liver cancer doctor quickly.
What Are Your Treatment Options After a Diagnosis of Liver Cancer?
Hepatic cancer, like other types of organ cancers, can spread quickly before being detected, which makes it all the more imperative to embark on a treatment plan as soon as a diagnosis has been issued. Localized hepatic cancer and metastatic liver cancer has a five-year survival rate of 30 to 50 percent (depending upon whether the mass can be surgically removed). A liver transplant has a survival rate as high as 70 percent in some patients with primary liver cancer.
Treatment options include:
- Surgery to remove tumors either minimally invasive (laparoscopic) or by opening the abdomen
- Liver transplant
- Chemotherapy to kill circulatory cancer cells and stop further growth
- Ablation (either cold or heat) can be delivered through skin without even the need for surgery
- Percutaneous ethanol injections
This latter treatment essentially involves the injection of alcohol into the masses in your liver. While the use of direct infusions of alcohol can seem counter-intuitive when treating a disease of the liver, the alcohol encourages cancer cells to expel water, changing their molecular structure so that the mass shrinks and eventually dies.