Liver cancer is the abnormal formation of tumours (mass of tissue). These tumours are formed when cells in the liver begin to grow out of control. The tumours in the liver can be both noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant) tumours. The tumours developed in the liver destroys liver cells and prevents the capacity of the liver to function normally.
Liver cancer is of two types and they are classified based on the cause.
Primary Liver Cancer
Primary liver cancer is cancer that starts within the liver. There are various kinds of primary liver cancer.
- Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC)
- Angiosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma
Secondary Liver Cancer
In most of the cases, cancer that found in the liver did not begin there, it has spread from other parts in the body, such as the pancreas, colon, stomach, breast, or lung. So it is called secondary cancer or metastatic cancer.
The liver is comprised of different types of cells, various types of tumours can be formed. Some may benign (noncancerous), and some may be cancerous and they can spread to other body parts. These tumours have numerous causes and they are treated differently.
Benign or Non-Cancerous Liver Tumors
These tumours are common and do not spread to other body parts. Usually, benign liver tumours are not diagnosed as do not pretend to cause any serious health risk and cause no symptoms. The most common types of benign liver tumours are:
- Focal Nodular Hyperplasias(FNH)
- Hepatocellular Adenomas
Malignant or Cancerous Liver Tumors
Cancerous liver tumours are the tumours that have originated either in the liver or might have spread from other cancer sites in the body. Most of the cancerous tumours found in the liver are metastatic.
- Hepatocellular Carcinoma
Symptoms Of Liver Cancer
Most of the people don’t have any symptoms in the early stages of primary liver cancer. When signs and symptoms do appear, they may include:
- an enlarged liver, spleen, or both
- Losing weight without trying
- Loss of appetite
- Upper abdominal pain
- Nausea & vomiting
- Weakness & fatigue
- Abdominal swelling
- Feeling fuller even after a small meal
- White, chalky stools
Liver cancer can also cause swollen veins located under your abdominal skin. It can also increase your calcium & cholesterol and low blood sugar levels.
The exact cause of liver cancer is not known, but several factors put at risk of developing tumours. They are caused due to mutations in the DNA of liver cells. The mutations lead to grow the cells out of control and form a tumour — a mass of cancerous cells. The conditions that can lead to liver cancer include:
- Chronic liver infections like hepatitis B and C
- Liver cirrhosis
- Certain inherited liver diseases like hemochromatosis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
- Exposure to aflatoxins
- Excessive alcohol consumption
The conditions Hepatitis B & C and hemochromatosis can damage the liver permanently leading to liver failure. In such cases, liver transplantation can only help patients.
Treatment For Liver Cancer
Liver cancer treatment varies from person to person depending on various factors like the size, and location of the tumours, functioning of the liver, type of disease present. The treatment options include: Localized treatments for liver cancer that are administered directly on the cancer cells include:
- Radiofrequency ablation
- Freezing cancer cells
Therapies For Liver Cancer
- Targeted drug therapy
- Radiation Therapies
- Supportive (palliative) care
Surgery For Liver cancer
Liver Transplant Surgery: In case of end-stage liver diseases or liver failure liver transplant surgery is the only option where the diseased liver is replaced with a healthy liver from a donor.
Laparoscopic Liver Resection: It is a minimally invasive surgical procedure also called keyhole surgery. The procedure involves removing the benign or cancerous liver mass. Compared to the open surgical procedure, laparoscopy for liver tumours has numerous benefits.