Liver Cancer is a cancer that form and originate on the surface or inside the liver. Liver is one of the most important components in the body that involved in blood filtration, converting nutrients and drugs absorbed from the digestive tract into ready-to-use chemicals. It performs regulation, synthesis and secretion of glucose, proteins and bile salts that contains cholesterol, phospholipids and bilirubin.
According to the latest WHO data published in April 2011 Liver Cancer deaths in Malaysia reached 1,154 cases or 1.13% of total deaths. As the largest solid organ in the human body, the liver basically an organ that does not complain very much until it is very, very late. Because of that, patients with liver cancer often see their doctors in late stages of the disease, where treatment options are limited.
The main cause of Liver Cancer is due to chronic Hepatitis B virus (HBV) and Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. However, chemicals that cause cancer namely a carcinogen and high alcohol consumption will also contribute to Liver Cancer. Smoking, obesity and diabetes can give raise to the risk of developing Liver Cancer.
Worldwide, Liver Cancer affects more men than women at a ratio of 3:1. The symptoms are non-specific and can be caused by many health problems other than Liver Cancer. Plus, many people do not experience signs or symptoms in the early stage. As the cancer progress, some may or may not notice some of these symptoms:
- Weight loss
- An ongoing lack of appetite
- Feeling very full even after a small meal
- A hard lump on the right side just below the rib cage
- Pain around the right shoulder blade
- Yellow-green colour to the skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Discomfort or pain in the upper abdomen on the right side
- Unusual tiredness
Blood screening which include the liver function test and tumour markers can detect the abnormalities of your liver. If the blood test shows abnormal results, further investigation is needed including ultrasounds, MRI, CT Scans or biopsies to determine the presence of tumour. If the cancer is diagnosed too late, the cancerous cell might spread to a large area of the liver, or develop at multiple sites. It also can grow too close to an important artery causing narrowing the lumen of the blood vessel.
Thus, prevention is vital important. The best way to prevent Liver Cancer is to get vaccinated. If you are already infected by HBV or HCV, then the best way is to get your liver monitored regularly. At the same time, reducing all other risk factors including smoking, alcohol intake, diabetes and obesity can reduce your chances of developing liver cancer.
Pantai Premier Pathology – In support of Love Your Liver Campaign
(Source: Malaysia Liver Foundation, Malaysian Oncological Society, the Star Online and World Life Expectancy)