Like most types of cancers, liver cancer is asymptomatic initially and the symptoms may be observed only at an advanced stage. So in most cases, this medical condition gets diagnosed either in routine medical checkups, or when the symptoms would start occurring. This article provides some information about the condition, its symptoms, and the medical tests that are conducted for its diagnosis.
Although primary liver cancer (cancer that begins in the tissues of the liver) is reputed to be the most common type of cancer in the world, it is uncommon in the US. However, in recent times, incidences of it have been increasing. It has been observed in most people in the US, that liver cancer is caused by a cancer that has metastasized from other parts of the body. This means that in most people, this medical condition might have been caused by the cancer that begun in the lungs, or colon. Whereas for some, it might have spread to the liver from the breast. This is known as secondary liver cancer. This disease tends to affect twice as many men as women, as a result of which it one of the most common types of cancer in males.
Cancer holds a reputation to be asymptomatic in its early stages, and so does the condition of primary liver cancer. Only when it has progressed to an advanced stage, it starts showing signs and symptoms, the common ones of which may include:
- Unintended weight loss
- Decreased appetite
- Pain in the upper abdominal region
- Persistent weakness
- The abdomen may appear swollen
Now, most of these symptoms may mimic those of other medical conditions. So, self-diagnosing such indications as those of cancer, would be a tough call. This is the reason that the true diagnosis can only be made by the concerned doctor.
Medical Tests to Diagnose Liver Cancer
On visit, the concerned doctor would try to understand the different symptoms that one is experiencing, and would probably inquire about the affected person’s medical history and that of his/her family, as well. Once that is done, he may recommend tests and diagnosis to detect the problem. Basically, there are three tests that help in diagnosing if this medical condition is present. These include blood tests, imaging tests, and a liver biopsy.
Starting with the blood tests, which are one of the common diagnostic tools for detecting many liver abnormalities. One of such tests is to detect the level of alpha-fetoprotein (AFP). If this level is found to be high, then it could be a possible sign of this medical condition.
Coming to imaging tests, this primary liver cancer diagnosis method involves tests such as ultrasound, CT scan (computerized tomography scan), and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). Ultrasound uses the principle of ultrasound waves. When these waves are fed into the body, they are bounced off internal organs and thus, produce echoes. Now, the echoes that are produced by tumors are different from other healthy tissues in the body. With the help of a CT scan, the doctor would be able to view the pictures of tumors growing in the liver, or elsewhere in the abdominal region. Even MRI helps in creating pictures of the areas inside the body. Biopsy involves obtaining a sample of tissue from the liver, and examining it under a microscope to look for possible cancer cells.
As aforementioned, one cannot rely on symptoms when it comes to diagnosing a condition such as cancer. However, once they appear and seem persistent, it is better to go for medical tests and rule out potential problems.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.