The liver is the largest organ in the body. It is divided into left and right lobes, and is surrounded by a fibrous capsule for support and protection. Located on the right side above the abdomen, it is tucked under the lower ribs for protection. The liverís primary functions are to regulate sugars and fats in the body for use in converting to energy and to produce proteins. Some of these proteins help the blood to clot. The other proteins are used to maintain the balance of fluids in the body. Not only does the liver destroy toxic and harmful substances, such as drugs and alcohol, but this organ also aids in the elimination of waste products by passing them through the urine and stools. Furthermore, the liver produces bile for turning fats taken from foods to make them easy for the intestine to absorb.
According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 28,000 people in the United States by the age of 64 will be diagnosed with primary liver cancer. When cancer starts at the liver it is called primary liver cancer. This happens when the process of forming new cells needed by the body turns abnormal. For instance, new cells grow when the body does not need them and the older cells will not die as they should and are not replaced. As a result, these additional cells form a tumor or nodule.
Liver Cancer Causes
It is not known what exactly causes liver cancer; however, some factors may increase the risk of developing it. For example, consuming too much alcohol for a long period, an infection and haemochromatosis are one of many conditions that cause the cancer. Each will lead to cirrhosis, which is the scarring of the liver. When a person develops cirrhosis, the risk of having hepatocellular carcinoma, or HCC, a common type of liver cancer will increase. Other liver cancer causes are viral infections with hepatitis B or C. Cancer in the liver can develop after a person had been infected many years. Furthermore, aflatoxin is a poison found in decayed wheat, peanuts, grains and soy that causes liver cancer. Other liver cancer causes are anabolic steroids often used by many body builders for their muscles; a diabetic and obese person is also at risk of developing liver cancer.
Liver Cancer Symptoms
Often in the early stages of liver cancer, the symptoms are unclear as they may appear as another condition. However, it is important to be examined by a physician early to determine if the symptoms of liver cancer are present. Liver cancer symptoms can include jaundice or when a personís skin and whites of the eyes turns yellow. Jaundice indicates the liver is not working correctly due to its bile duck being blocked, thereby forcing the bile into the bloodstream. Jaundice also indicates the person has cirrhosis. Ascites is one of many liver cancer symptoms. The fluids in the abdomen build up and cause swelling. Liver cancer pain is another symptom a person may have when she or he feels discomfort in the upper abdomen. Additionally, the pain could be felt in the shoulder due to the enlarged liver causing pressure on the nerves under the diaphragm, which are connected to the nerves in the right shoulder. Furthermore, a person may also lose appetite, have a loss of weight, nausea, and feel weak and tired.
Liver Cancer Prognosis
When patients are diagnosed with liver cancer many of them want to know the prognosis. Usually their doctor will explain the five-year survival rate and may explain their chances of surviving the next five years after diagnosis. However, many patients survive longer than five years depending on the type and stage of their liver cancer. For instance, patients who have no other liver problems, such as cirrhosis, and have undergone successful surgery to remove their cancer, will have higher survival rate. However, survival is lower when patients have other conditions, and if the cancer has metastasized from other areas in their body.
In concluding, liver cancer can possibly be healed if it is detected early and is localized. With todayís technology and medical advances, the chance to recover from this disease is encouraging. With an excellent support system, the liver cancer sufferer is able to manage the pain, treatment, and deal effectively with their feelings that this type of cancer brings.