In most of the cases, as the cancer advances, it spreads into the liver. Secondary liver cancer prognosis may not be very favorable, but the life expectancy of the patient often depends upon the overall health and will power of the patient. The following article provides information about the various symptoms, diagnostic tests, and the prognosis of this condition.
Early symptoms of liver cancer are very vague and are generally overlooked or misinterpreted. When cancer that originated in other parts of the body spreads into the liver, it is called secondary or metastatic liver cancer. The cancer spreads through the blood stream or the lymph system. These secondary cancers are also called metastases.
Secondary liver cancer can originate from any primary cancer developed at various sites such as ovary, uterus, prostate, lung, kidney, breast, stomach, and colon. In more than 50% of the cases, it has been observed that it often results from the spread of primary colorectal cancer. If the primary tumor is very small and asymptomatic, medical tests cannot detect the origin of the secondary liver cancer. This condition is known as unknown primary cancer.
Liver plays an important role in removing toxins from the blood. Since each and every drop of blood passes through the liver, the liver is the most likely place for cancer cells to grow, or rather, it is often attacked first. In most cases, metastatic spread is noticed in the liver first. It should be noted that diagnosis of secondary or metastatic liver cancer does not always mean that the cancer cells have also invaded some more organs of the body. Therefore, early diagnosis is very important.
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Undesired weight loss
- Dark-colored urine
- Pale-colored stools
- Very itchy skin
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Enlarged spleen
- Pain in right shoulder
- Ascites, or swelling in the abdominal cavity resulting from fluid build-up
- Upper right quadrant pain or vague discomfort in the upper, right quadrant of the abdomen due to an enlargement of the liver
Usually, the cancer is discovered during simple routine tests; because most of the time, liver cancer does not exhibit any symptoms for a long period of time. But, having the aforementioned symptoms does not necessarily mean that you have liver cancer. These symptoms can be noticed in a variety of other conditions as well. Prompt checking is therefore very important for early diagnosis.
For proper diagnosis of the condition, the doctor may suggest certain tests. These tests also determine the spread of the condition, and help determine the prognosis of the disease. The tests are:
- MRI Scan: Images of the entire body can be obtained with the help of an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. The images help find out the origin of the primary cancer. MRI scan plays an important role in cancer treatment, because it is necessary to destroy the primary cancer along with the secondary cancer. This ensures that liver won’t be attacked by the primary cancer again.
- Gamma PET Scan: This is another important prognostic tool for secondary liver cancer, which involves the use of simple sugar and diagnostic radiation. One of the characteristic property of cancer cells is that they exhibit a faster metabolism for sugar than normal cells. Gamma PET (positron emission tomography) scan, scans the whole body and thus detects the areas which show rapid metabolism for sugar. The test results also help determine the correct treatment plan.
- Extreme Drug Resistance (EDR): This test helps the physician find out whether the solid tumor will be resistant to any particular chemotherapy drug or not. It is considered as an important prognostic factor, since it helps determine the correct drugs for chemotherapy.
Secondary liver cancer prognosis helps decide the treatment, which may vary according to the age, sex, stage (how far the cancer has spread), and the physical and mental health of the patient. The treatment options include surgery to remove cancer tumors, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy to kill and control the growth of cancer cells. Apart from this, use of hormones to prevent the abnormal growth of cells and monoclonal antibody treatment may also be used. Scientists are still researching to find out the effectiveness of other treatments like radio frequency ablation, cryosurgery, laser ablation, alcohol treatment, etc. to treat this condition.
Secondary liver cancer is a life-threatening condition. Most of the patients diagnosed with secondary liver cancer have a life expectancy of 6 months to one year after the diagnosis. Life expectancy beyond one year is noticed in very few patients. However, if the cancer is diagnosed early when the tumor is still small and when there is no vascular invasion, then surgeries or other cancer treatments can help increase the life expectancy. Patient’s mental and physical health also play an important role in increasing the life expectancy.
It should be borne in mind that every cancer case is unique and you cannot foretell the life span of a cancer patient, with the help of the prognosis or available data and statistics. Prompt medication, proper treatment, and family support is imperative to help a person affected by this condition.
Secondary liver cancer prognosis is generally not very encouraging; but naturopathy medicines, nutritional therapy, mind-body medicine, and spiritual support can help fight the cancer. Prognosis is nothing but the medical opinion that gives an idea about whether it is possible to remove cancer completely, or whether the patient is likely to have a recurrence.