Do you know the liver is the largest internal organ of the body? It weighs around 1.36-1.39 kilograms. Vital for your body's metabolic functions and immune system, the liver plays a crucial role in your health and well-being.
One of the deadliest diseases that affect the liver is cancer. According to the World Cancer Research Institute (WCRF), liver cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the world. In 2018 alone, 8,40,000 new liver cancer cases were registered across the world. The American Cancer Society estimates that liver cancer accounts for more than 700,000 deaths each year.
The deadly liver cancer affects both genders and with a growing number of cases every year, it is essential to spread awareness and lower the fatality rates.
There are two types of liver cancers:
A. Primary Liver Cancer that begins in the liver cells. It includes hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, hepatoblastoma, etc.
B. Secondary Liver Cancer, also called metastatic liver cancer, doesn't initiate in the liver but it spreads to the organ over a period of time. The origin of this type of cancer can be colon, bladder, pancreas, kidneys, ovaries, breast, stomach, etc.
Why is Liver Cancer so Common Today?
Primary liver cancer is highly prevalent in underdeveloped and developing nations. It is estimated that liver cancer is one of the top ten reasons for deaths among Indians. Lack of awareness, unhealthy lifestyle and inaccessibility to affordable treatment are a few of the reasons why liver cancer is affecting so many people today.
The problem with HCC - liver cancer is that it rarely shows any symptoms in the early stages. And, even if there are any symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or abdominal pain, they are often ignored as common digestive issues. In order to prevent the spread of liver cancer, you must know all of its symptoms.
1. Weight loss and loss of appetite.
2. Extreme fatigue and unexplained exhaustion.
3. Nausea or vomiting.
4. Enlarged liver or spleen.
5. Discomfort in the upper abdomen.
6. Abdominal pain.
7. Easy bruising and bleeding.
10. White chalky stools, etc.
Let's find out the risk factors associated with liver cancer to understand more about the disease:
1. HCC is more common among males than in females.
2. The fibrolamellar subtype of HCC is more prevalent in females.
3. Certain ethnicities and races including Asians, have higher rates of liver cancer.
4. Chronic infection due to Hepatitis B (HBV) or Hepatitis C (HCV).
5. Cirrhosis, hemochromatosis and Wilson's disease, etc.
6. Autoimmune diseases such as primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) and certain inherited metabolic diseases can cause cirrhosis. It can lead to liver cancer.
7. Excessive fat accumulation in the liver/ non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
8. Higher blood sugar levels.
9. Exposure to aflatoxins.
10. Excessive alcohol consumption.
11. Smoking and consumption of tobacco in other forms.
12. Long-term use of anabolic steroids.
13. Obesity and Type 2 diabetes.
Prevent Liver Cancer: Tips for Leading a Healthy Life
As the liver has the capacity to regenerate, it is possible to remove a part of the liver that is affected by cancer. But, if the remaining liver is unhealthy, a liver transplant may become crucial.
Even though technology has advanced in recent years and survival rates have increased, those who suffer from liver cancer can also suffer from physical, emotional and financial exhaustion. The only solution? Focus on the preventable risk factors. Work on leading a healthy life and prevent the occurrence of deadly diseases such as liver cancer.
1. Avoid Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infections
Avoid sharing needles and adhere to safe sex practices to prevent the spread of the virus. If you are at risk for HBV or HCV, monitor your health and watch out for common symptoms of liver diseases.
2. Reduce the Consumption of Alcohol and Tobacco
Along with cirrhosis and liver cancer, these vices have the potential to cause several different problems in the body.
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
People with obesity are prone to diabetes and fatty liver diseases, both of which have a close link to liver cancer. Maintain an active lifestyle and focus on eating nutritious food.
4. Avoid Exposure to Aflatoxins
Aflatoxins are a group of toxins that are found in agricultural crops including maize, peanuts, cottonseed, tree nuts, etc. In order to avoid exposure to aflatoxins, avoid consuming contaminated grains.
5. Do not ignore Routine Checkups
Early detection is the key to saving your life from liver cancer. Visit your surgical gastroenterologist for regular medical checkups for early detection and treatment of liver cancer.
Prevention is in Your Hands!
According to a report published in December 2017, JAMA Oncology found out that incidences of liver cancer have increased by 75% between 1990 and 2015. Even though the rate of increase for liver cancer is very high, there is a ray of light. Specialists have observed that a majority of liver cancer diagnoses are due to preventable risk factors.
It means if we focus on reducing the risk factors of liver cancer, there are higher chances of us leading a healthy life.
Early detection and accurate treatment by a liver surgeon can help you in leading a healthy life. If you are showing symptoms of liver cancer, visit an experienced surgical gastroenterologist today. Book appointment with South Gujarat's first National Board Certified HPB and GI surgeon.