The liver is the largest internal organ. It lies under your right ribs just beneath your right lung. It is shaped like a pyramid and divided into right and left lobes. The lobes are further divided into segments.
Unlike most other organs, the liver gets blood from 2 sources: the hepatic artery supplies the liver with blood rich in oxygen from the heart, and the portal vein brings nutrient-rich blood from the intestines.
You cannot live without your liver. It has several important functions:
- It breaks down and stores many of the nutrients absorbed from the intestine that your body needs to function. Some nutrients must be changed (metabolized) in the liver before they can be used by the rest of the body for energy or to build and repair body tissues.
- It makes most of the clotting factors that keep you from bleeding too much when you are cut or injured.
- It secretes bile into the intestines to help absorb nutrients (especially fats).
- It filters out and breaks down toxic wastes in the blood, which are then removed from the body.
What is Liver Cancer ?
When unhealthy cells grow and spread in the liver than it results in liver cancer. Primary liver cancer begins in the liver. Metastatic liver cancer is the cancer that spreads to the liver through some other organ. Liver cancer includes some common benign tumors such as –
- Hepatic adenoma
- Focal nodular hyperplasia
Types of Liver Cancer
Hepatoblastoma: A rare type of liver cancer is usually seen in children. The early detection of this cancer can offer about 90% of survival rate.
Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC): This is considered as the most primary liver cancers that start from hepatocyte cells. They can begin at multiple spots in the liver or can also start as a single tumor. Hepatocellular carcinoma begins in multiple spots in the liver in those people who have liver damage.
Hemangiosarcomas and Angiosarcomas: They are considered as the fast growing liver cancers that start in the blood vessels in the liver. They can only be diagnosed when they are in their advanced stages.
Fibrolamellar HCC: This is considered as rare and can be effectively treated as compared to other types of liver cancer.
Bile Duct Cancers (Cholangiocarcinomas): This type begins in the bile duct that is small tubes carrying bile to the gallbladder.
- Diabetes may raise the risk of liver cancer in those people who have viral hepatitis or who drink heavily.
- Cirrhosis can also cause liver cancer. Hepatitis C and chronic alcoholism are responsible for causing cirrhosis.
- Obesity can also increase the risk of liver cancer
- Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B long-term infections are associated with liver cancer as they often result in cirrhosis. Hepatitis B can cause liver cancer without cirrhosis.
- Internal bleeding
- Ascites is the condition where there is build-up of fluid around the intestines and liver
- Weight loss
- Clay-colored bowel movements
- Abdominal pain
- A hard lump just below the rib cage
- Pain in the abdomen or back or around the right shoulder blade
- Loss of appetite
Physical examination helps in determining symptoms or lumps that may suspect the presence of liver cancer. Some of the other tests that are performed for diagnosing liver cancer include –
- Laparoscopy: A thin tube is used for observing liver and other organs within the abdominal cavity. A laparoscope can also be used along with a biopsy.
- Blood Tests: The blood tests also include liver enzymes and a serum marker test. The measurement of some substances associated to cancer can be done by performing serum marker test. An underlying liver problem is indicated with the help of liver enzymes.
- Angiogram: The injection of a dye is done into an artery that shows tumors and liver tissues.
- Ultrasound: High-frequency sound waves from the body are transmitted by this procedure.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI): A computer, large magnet and radio waves are produced in this test that provides clear images of the human body.
- Computed Tomography (CT scan): This test also provides detailed images of the organs.
Percutaneous ethanol injection, surgery and chemotherapy are the three methods for treating liver cancer. Some of the surgical treatments include –
- Total Hepatectomy and Liver Transplant : Here in this procedure, the entire liver is removed and is replaced with another healthy liver from an organ donor.
- Partial Hepatectomy : In this procedure, a part of the liver is removed that ranges from a small wedge to an entire lobe.
- Radio Frequency Ablation : This procedure uses a probe along with electrodes for killing cancerous tissue.
Anti-cancer drugs are used in chemotherapy for destroying cancer cells or preventing them from reproducing. Chemoembolization of the hepatic artery is another type of chemotherapy used for treating liver cancer. In this the chemotherapy drugs are combined with another substance in order to block the artery. The aim is to destroy the tumor blood and then applying chemotherapy directly to the tumor.
Percutaneous ethanol injection
During this therapy, ethanol is injected into a tumor for destroying the cancer. This therapy is not used frequently.