Liver is an important organ of the body that is located under the diaphragm, in the right side of the abdominal cavity. It plays an important role in the metabolic processes. It filters the blood and regulates the blood sugar level. Malfunctioning of this organ causes severe problems.
Liver cancer starts with a tumor (an uncontrolled growth of body cells) inside the liver. In a healthy liver, the cells multiply in a definite and controlled manner without interrupting the surrounding cells. When any of the hepatocytes (liver cells), bile duct cells, or blood vessels within the liver grow uncontrollably, it results in the formation of a tumor.
Tumors are of two types namely: benign and malignant. Benign tumors are surrounded by a cell wall, because of which they cannot obtrude other surrounding tissues. Malignant tumors, on the other hand, are capable of disturbing other tissues. Apart from this, they also spread to other body parts. This type of tumor is observed more commonly in men than in women. People above the age of 40 have higher chances of developing this cancer. Hepatic cancer is generally of two types namely: primary and secondary.
Primary Liver Cancer
This type of cancer develops from benign tumors and is the most common type of cancer. Most of the growths in the liver, such as hemangiomas, focal nodular hyperplasia, and hepatic adenomas are usually benign (non-cancerous). Chronic kidney disease, hepatitis B or C, some toxins, and viral infections affecting the liver can cause primary hepatic cancer. It is further divided into three types:
Hepatocellular Carcinoma or Hepatoma
Uncontrolled growth of hepatocytes results in hepatocellular carcinoma. It is commonly observed in adults, especially people suffering from cirrhosis. Some children and teens also suffer from a subtype of hepatic cancer known as hepatoblastoma. It is more prevalent in the United States.
Cholangiocarcinomas or Bile Duct Cancer
It is a cancer of the bile ducts and is more common in women.
Angiosarcoma or Hemangiosarcoma
Angiosarcomas is a cancer that develops in the blood vessel of the liver. It is a rare type of cancer. In England, only around 10 cases are diagnosed every year. It is most commonly diagnosed in people between the age of 70 to 80.
Secondary Liver Cancer
This type of cancer is caused by the spread of cancerous cells that are located outside the liver. It can spread from gastrointestinal organs, like stomach, pancreas, and colon, as the blood flows from these organs to the liver. It can also spread through the lymphatic system. Secondary liver cancer is also known as metastatic cancer. In most of the cases, it occurs as a result of primary hepatic cancer. It can also be a result of advanced breast cancer, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer, or some other types of cancers.
At the primary stage, the cancer may not show any symptoms at all. But, people in advanced stages of cancer may experience weakness, fatigue, fever, weight loss, or loss of appetite. In case of metastatic cancer, patients may experience nausea, discomfort in the abdomen, enlarged spleen, and lethargy.
Various treatment methods, such as chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, photodynamic therapy, and radiosurgery are used to treat liver cancer. Alcohol consumption, smoking, and some steroids create problems in the functioning of the liver. Early detection and appropriate treatment reduces the chances of hepatic cancer. Therefore, any tumor found in the liver should be diagnosed immediately.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.