Liver cancer encompasses all tumors or cancers within the liver, and is the third commonest cancer in the world. Data in India is incomplete- 12,750 new patients are diagnosed every year, and this figure may be the tip of the iceberg.
Risk factors for liver cancer include:
- Viral hepatitis – Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections have an important association with liver cancer. Approximately 4% and 1% of all Indians have HBV or HCV infection respectively. Dr Kaiser Raja, Senior Hepatologist, BGS Global Hospitals estimates that about 5-10 percent of people with HBV or HCV will develop liver cancer.
- Cirrhosis is a progressive disorder that leads to scarring of the liver. Cirrhosis is the end result of all forms of chronic liver damage. Patients who have both chronic viral hepatitis and cirrhosis, have a greater than 100-fold increased risk of developing liver cancer.
- Obesity: Dr Sonal Asthana, Head, Transplant Surgery, BGS Global Hospitals says ‘Obesity related fatty liver disease is one of the silent epidemics of our time. One third of all obese patients may have liver disease.”
- Diabetes can increase risk of liver cancer, especially in those who have chronic HBV or HCV infection.
- Other factors include smoking and betel nut/tobacco chewing.
Liver cancer usually has no obvious symptoms. Symptoms which may be caused by liver cancer include unexplained weight loss, lack of appetite, abdominal pain, increasing abdominal girth.
Dr Mathew Jacob, Senior Transplant Surgeon, BGS Global Hospitals warns that sudden jaundice (yellowness of the skin and eyes) or sudden deterioration in the overall condition of a patient with cirrhosis may be suspicious of liver cancer.
The best chance for patients who are at risk for liver cancer is regular surveillance so that cancers can be found early. Patients who have a liver disease that puts them at a high risk of developing liver cancer (such as hepatitis B or any form of cirrhosis) should undergo periodic screening tests.
How can one protect against liver cancer?
- Quit smoking. Liver cancer is one of many ill-effects associated with smoking. There is no better time to stop than right now.
- Vaccination against Hepatitis B.
- Watch Your Alcohol Intake. Any amount of alcohol can produce damage to the liver. If an individual has an underlying liver condition, the only safe dose of alcohol is zero.
- Protect against hepatitis B or C
- Make sure your healthcare providers use clean and sterile equipment
- Practice safe sex
- Do not share razors or other personal items
- If you have Hepatitis B, C or cirrhosis, consult a liver specialist and get regular screening for liver cancer.
If I have been diagnosed to have liver cancer, what questions should I ask my doctor?
You and your family should have a clear understanding of the treatment plan.
- What is the stage of the disease?
- What are my treatment choices? What are the risks and side effects of treatment?
- How long will my treatment last?
- What is the treatment likely to cost?
- What are the prospects for liver transplantation?
Early cancers can be treated by surgical removal (resection), destruction of the individual tumors by targeted chemotherapy (TACE) or liver transplantation. Treatment depends on the liver’s condition, size, location, and number of tumors, the person’s age and overall health.
If you need more details and treatment, please reach the BGS Global Hospitals in India.