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Navigating Liver Cancer: Understanding, Symptoms, and Prevention



The liver is an organ located in the upper right section of your abdomen, situated just below the diaphragm and above the stomach. Liver cancer can develop when abnormal cell growth occurs in this vital organ. Interestingly, this condition is more commonly diagnosed in men than in women. On World Hepatitis Day, let's explore the intricate world of liver health.


The liver, approximately the size of an American football, plays a crucial role in digesting food and detoxifying the body. To safeguard your liver, it's essential to limit alcohol consumption and maintain a healthy weight, as these measures can significantly reduce your risk of developing liver cancer.


According to research published in the World Cancer Research Journal, the standardized incidence of liver cancer stands at 10.1 cases per 100,000 people, with a higher incidence among males (15.3) than females (5.3). The most alarming mortality rates are observed in East Asian countries, with a standardized mortality rate of 9.5 per 100,000 people (14.3 in males and 5.1 in females).


Liver cancer comes in two primary forms: primary and secondary. Primary liver cancer originates within the liver itself, whereas secondary liver cancer spreads from other parts of the body.


When focusing on primary liver cancer, there are three predominant types:

  1. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC): This is the most prevalent type, accounting for nearly all liver cancer cases.

  2. Intrahepatic cancer (IHC): A subtype of cholangiocarcinoma, IHC affects the bile ducts within the liver and represents approximately 10% to 20% of all primary liver cancer cases.

  3. Angiosarcoma: This rare type, comprising about 1% of primary liver cancer cases, initiates in the blood vessel lining within the liver and may affect other organs.

Symptoms:

Symptoms of liver cancer may not manifest during its early stages, but as the disease progresses, the following symptoms can develop:

  • Unintentional weight loss.

  • Decreased appetite.

  • Upper abdominal pain.

  • Nausea and vomiting.

  • General weakness and fatigue.

  • Abdominal swelling.

  • Jaundice is characterized by yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes.

  • Pale, chalky stools.


Dr. Shubham Vatsya, a gastroenterologist at GastroLiver.Care in Delhi, explains, "Common symptoms of liver cancer in men include jaundice, weight loss, reduced appetite, and pain in the upper right abdomen."


Risk factors:

Liver cancer is not as common as some other types of cancer, but its incidence is steadily rising. Several risk factors can contribute to its diagnosis in men, including:

  • Age: It is more prevalent in older men.

  • Prolonged heavy alcohol consumption: Binge drinking over an extended period increases the risk.

  • Smoking: Smoking is a known risk factor.

  • Aflatoxin exposure: Aflatoxin, a toxic substance produced by certain molds that can grow on peanuts, grains, and corn, is a risk factor, though food-handling regulations in the United States limit exposure.

  • Anabolic steroid use: Long-term use of anabolic steroids, a type of synthetic testosterone, can increase the risk of liver cancer.

In conclusion

It's essential to proactively make lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of liver cancer. Cutting back on alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight through regular exercise, and adopting a low-carbohydrate diet can significantly contribute to a healthier liver and reduce the likelihood of liver cancer. In the event of a liver cancer diagnosis, seeking the right treatment with the guidance of a healthcare professional is crucial. Moreover, staying connected with friends and family and joining a support group can provide essential emotional support.

Dr. Vatsya emphasizes, "You can prevent liver cancer by avoiding alcohol, maintaining a normal body weight, regular exercise, adopting a low-carbohydrate diet, and practicing monogamy."




Written by: Deepti Dogra

Edited by: Aniket Joshi

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