The liver, also one of the larger organs in the body, is responsible for multiple functions that process the blood leaving the stomach and intestines to extract nutrients and excrete waste. Unlike the kidneys, which everyone has two of, we only have one liver placed behind the right rib cage. Statistics indicate that liver cancer results in nearly 30,000 deaths each year. The risk is also high among men and people suffering from certain hepatitis infections. Let us understand the ways to reduce the risk and understand further diagnosis for proper treatment.
Is prevention possible?
Note that most forms of cancer cannot be prevented. However, there are a few ways to reduce the risk of liver cancer prematurely. Note that this only involves managing other conditions that increase the risk of cancer.
- Preventing Hepatitis B
Taking the vaccine to prevent hepatitis B helps reduce the risk of an infection that can trigger cancer cells to grow and multiply, both in adults and young children. Statistics indicate that people who suffer from Hepatitis B infection have a 25% to 40% higher chance of developing liver cancer.
- Preventing Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is also ranked among the major triggers of liver cancer. So, it is crucial to practice safe sex, not use any illegal drugs, and ensure safety practices for using sterile needles in tattoo and piercing parlors. Hepatitis C can easily spread due to an infected needle.
- Lifestyle changes
Eating healthy, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding alcohol also helps reduce the risk to a great extent.
Liver cancer diagnosis
In most cases, it is impossible to identify cancer in its early stages, as the symptoms that affect the liver develop later when cancer progresses. Only small tumors develop on the organ in its early stages, and it is not possible to detect these tumors. Also, depending on the risk and spread of the cancer, screening tests can be done to identify the extent of the damage. The following are the most common tests recommended for diagnosis using screening methods.
- Standard blood test
A blood test will reveal the presence of certain proteins in the blood that indicate cancerous cells in the liver tissue. Doctors also examine the level of proteins, bilirubin, and certain enzymes to check the liver’s health. If alpha-fetoproteins are detected in large quantities, diagnoses here indicate cancer has already affected the organ.
- CT, MRI, and X-Rays
Imaging tests provide more solid grounds for confirmation of liver cancer, as it is possible to review the tumors and assess the progression. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic image resourcing (MRI) tests can help detect the cancer’s exact location in the organ and understand the extent of the growth. Once the cancer is confirmed, further follow-up imaging tests are done to track the cancer’s extent and progress.
In most cases, doctors perform a needle biopsy, wherein they surgically insert a thin needle through the abdomen and extract a liver tissue for sample analysis. An examination of this sample further reveals the extent of the liver damage. It is normally performed under anesthesia and is a painless procedure. Alternatively, doctors may also conduct a laparoscopic biopsy that uses a small camera mounted at the front of the scope. Doctors can examine the health and condition of the liver while performing the Laparotomy.
Post a thorough diagnosis, a treatment plan is assessed. Note that liver transplant is the absolute last resort, as first, medications are prescribed and targeted therapies are done to manage the spread and provide relief from discomforts.