What is Liver Cancer?
The liver is a large organ occupying the upper right portion of the abdomen. It is an important organ with many functions:
- Production of bile which is needed for the digestion of fat in the intestines
- Protein synthesis
- Storage of glucose and fat
- Breakdown of toxic substances such as alcohol
Liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular cancer (HCC), arises from hepatocytes (liver cells). HCC often develops only in liver that is severely damaged by long standing diseases or chemicals. The liver becomes hardened and shrunken — a condition called liver cirrhosis. When the liver cancer is small (less than 5 cm diameter), it often does not present symptoms as the liver is a large organ. When bigger and more advanced, liver cancer can infiltrate the liver capsule or obstruct the bile ducts. At this stage, it causes symptoms. Liver cancer can form many nodules within the liver and also spread into the blood vessels. These features make it difficult to surgically remove them. The liver is also the seat of another type of cancer called secondary or metastatic cancer. The main cancer forms elsewhere in the body and secondary deposits are formed in the liver. A common example is colorectal cancer spreading to the liver via the bloodstream.
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
These usually do not show up until the later stages:
- Loss of appetite, loss of weight and tiredness are the most common
- When the tumour is large, the patient may note a persistent pain or a lump on his upper right abdomen
- Increase in the abdomen girth
- Dramatic change in the overall condition of a person with chronic hepatitis or cirrhosis
- Nausea and vomiting
How is Liver Cancer diagnosed?
The following tests are important:
Blood test for AFP. This tumour marker is often raised in liver cancer patients.
Imaging studies such as ultrasound scan, CT scan & MRI scans are used to confirm the presence and extent of HCC.
Invasive tests such as angiogram, a test to study the blood flow to the liver cancer, is often performed to study the operability of the cancer.
Biopsy of the liver cancer. A piece of the cancer is obtained for microscopic examination to confirm the cancer.
How is Liver Cancer treated?
Liver cancer is potentially curable if it is small (less than 5 cm in diameter), solitary and the liver function is good. Only 10% of liver cancer fall into this category. If curative surgery is possible, 5-year survival is about 40%. If inoperable, very few patients survive 2 years.
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The common treatments are open surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. However, for those who can’t tolerate or do not want to take common sugery, the preferred treatment is minimally invasive treatment, including cryotherapy, interventional therapy, microwave ablation, combined therapy of chinese medicine and western medicine, etc for liver cancer stage 1 or stage 2.
In liver cancer stage 3,comprehensive treatment is better than the single treatment. Single treatment might not well meet patient’s need to kill the cancer cells to the greatest extent. Taking cryotherapy, microwave, interventional therapy can help destroy the cancer with lesser side effects and no need to take open surgery.
In liver cancer stage 4, the tumor has spread to other parts of the body. Open surgery is not effective as a form of treatment. Rather, minimally invasive treatment becomes a good option in liver cancer stage 4. We offer cryotherapy, microwave ablation, 125I seed implantation, interventional therapy, etc for liver cancer stage 4 with the advantages of better effect and lesser side effects. Doctor team will first discuss patient’s condition and give a recommended treatment plan according to their physical condition, willing and other factors.
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