Liver cancer is a cancer which arises from liver cells. It is also known as hepatocellular carcinoma. The liver is the largest organ in the body which has various vital functions such as protein and fat digestion, toxic removing from the body etc. That is why liver cancer can prove fatal because of the disruption or loss of any of these vital functions.
The liver is the largest internal organ in the human body. Since it consists of different types of cells, several types of tumors can form in the liver, depending on where cancer starts to develop. Liver cancer is divided into primary cancer and metastatic (secondary) cancer; in primary liver cancer, the cancerous cells develop in the liver. In metastatic liver cancer, the cancerous cells begin in other parts of the body and spread to the liver.
The prognosis of liver cancer is very poor. Without proper treatment, patients usually die in there to four months. Treated patients may live 6 to 18 months if they respond to therapies. Men are twice as likely to develop hepatocellular carcinoma as are women. In the United States, Asian Americans have the highest incidence of liver cancer due to high rates of Hepatitis B infection.
Staging for liver cancer
Although a TNM staging system exists for hepatocellular carcinoma, for purposes deciding about therapeutic options, there are only three stages: localized resectable, localized unresectable and advanced disease.
Causes of liver cancer
The exact cause of liver cancer is not known. It may start with genetic damage in liver cells. Possible risk factors for primary liver cancer include having hepatitis B or hepatitis C (or both), having a close relative with both hepatitis and liver cancer, and having cirrhosis. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to liver damage and increase the risk. Smoking is also a risk factor. The following factors are generally implicated:
- Hepatitis B virus infection
- Cirrhosis of liver
- Hepatitis C virus infection
- Frequent use of oral contraceptive pills
- Heavy alcohol consumption
- Cigarette smoking
- Diabetes mellitus
- Alfa toxin consumption
Symptoms of liver cancer
Common symptoms include bloating, abdominal pain, fever, weight loss, decreased appetite, and nausea. But because liver cancer is so rare, its symptoms are usually attributed to more common, benign conditions. Frequently the diagnosis of cancer is not considered until these symptoms persist or until a person develops an enlarging abdominal mass or fluid in the abdomen.
Jaundice (the skin turning yellow) and swelling in the legs are usually associated with more advanced tumors. Sometimes, people with liver cancer feel entirely well. Other symptoms include:
- Anorexia or loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Low grade fever
- General weakness
- Abdominal swelling
- Enlarged liver
Diagnosis of Liver Cancer
Diagnosis mainly includes
- Complete blood count – Hemoglobin is usually low
- Liver function test – may show high bilirubin, low albumin and high globulin levels.
- Abdominal USG – diffuse distortion of hepatic parenchyma and well circumscribed hyperchogenic mass suggests liver cancer.
- Contrast enhanced CT of the abdomen – it appears as hypo dense mass in early phase and enhance fibrous capsule in late stage.
- MRI – it appears as high intensity lesion.
- Selective angiography – to demonstrate a highly vascular tumor
- Prothrombin time and partial thromboplastin time (PT and PTT) tests of clotting – usually done if a liver problem is suspected -may be abnormal.
- The serum alpha fetoprotein (AFP) is elevated in 30 to 50% of people in the United States with primary liver cancer. It may also be elevated in people with germ cell cancer, gastric cancer, or cirrhosis of the liver and in pregnant women.
Abdominal ultrasound can evaluate the density of the liver if a mass is suspected. It can reveal the presence of fluid in the abdomen and is particularly useful for distinguishing a solid mass from a noncancerous accumulation of fluid in the liver.
A CT scan is useful for determining the extent of a tumor within the liver and evaluating the possible extension of tumor tissue into lymph nodes or to other structures within the abdomen.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may help determine if the hepatocellular carcinoma can be surgically removed by revealing whether the tumor involves both lobes of the liver or is invading blood vessels. Usually, MRI is not necessary because the CT scan provides essentially the same information.
An X-ray involving the injection of dye into the artery going to the liver (arteriography) may be necessary before any attempt is made to remove the tumor, since the surgeon needs to know exactly what the blood supply of the tumor is in order to remove it.
If surgery is being considered, a chest X-ray should be done. If the cancer has spread to the lungs or any other organ, surgery should be reconsidered. PET scanning (position-emission tomography) is helpful for excluding the presence of cancer elsewhere in the body but is generally not helpful in determining the extent of the cancer in the liver.
Biopsy, either by fine needle aspiration (FNA) or with a regular needle, is almost always necessary. This procedure can be done through the skin without significant danger. Because of the variation in the tumor cells of different types of cancers, the biopsy sample can be used to distinguish between a primary liver cancer and a cancer that has spread from another organ. Occasionally, if the AFP is extremely high and the tumor is very large, a biopsy may not be necessary.
There are no findings specific to liver cancer on physical examination. Findings may include the following, all of which may have other explanations:
- Enlarged liver and spleen.
- Enlarged, hard lymph nodes.
- Swelling of the abdomen from fluid (ascites).
- Jaundice (the skin turning yellow).
- Swelling of the legs (edema).
Liver Cancer Treatment
Allopathic and surgical modes for liver cancer treatment – include Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy, immunotherapy and Surgery which, depends upon location and stage of cancer.
According to conventional medicine, surgery is currently the best and the most common treatment for localized liver cancer. In some cases, the affected area of the liver is removed. Radiation therapy can be used following surgical removal of the tumor and may be used alone to destroy cancerous cells. Chemotherapy, using drugs to kill cancer cells, is another option to treat liver cancer. Chemotherapy may causes side effects, such as nausea and vomiting.
It is not always possible to prevent hepatocellular carcinoma, but the risk of developing it can be reduced. Some people consider the hepatitis B vaccine to be the most effective way to prevent primary liver cancer. The protection can last years or lifelong. However, this has been questioned by other authorities.
A vaccine for hepatitis C is not yet available, but practicing safe sex and not sharing needles can reduce the risk of hepatitis C infection and liver cancer.
Quitting smoking can reduce the risk of developing lung and stomach cancer and is an effective way to reduce the risk of metastatic hepatocellular carcinoma. A healthy diet and a low intake of alcohol can also reduce the risk of developing liver cancer.
Liver cancer treatment with homeopathy
Homeopathy is one of the most popular holistic systems of medicine. The selection of remedy is based upon the theory of individualization and symptoms similarity by using holistic approach. This is the only way through which a state of complete health can be regained by removing all the sign and symptoms from which the patient is suffering. The aim of homeopathy is not only to treat hepatocellular carcinoma symptoms but to address its underlying cause and individual susceptibility. As far as therapeutic medication is concerned; several well-proved medicines are available for treatment of liver cancer symptoms that can be selected on the basis of cause, location, sensation, modalities and extension of the complaints. For individualized remedy selection and treatment, the patient should consult a qualified homeopathic doctor in person. Some important homeopathic remedies are given below for liver cancer treatment:
Calcarea Carbonica Hahnemanii
Mercurius Solubilis Hahnemanni