liver cancer cases have been increasing exaggeratedly over a decade and now has reached to threatening levels – according to a recently published survey one in ten thousand people is at a risk of getting liver cancer in India. Such thrilling figures are now warranting us to come forward and prepare ourselves fully to fight it diligently until it gets uprooted completely from India or around the world. But to ensure that we must change our frivolous attitude towards this slowly growing menace that silently marauds like a sinister monster gulping energetic liver cells rather mutely over a period of time. The patient remains uninformed bearer of its remorseless afflictions as a muke spectator savouring his or her life under the disguise of healthy individual. After inflicting damage for years together wherein the patient goes symptomless, it suddenly comes forth out of seclusion manifesting itself as a potential force capable of resisting the best of weaponry in the arsenal of the doctors. In spite of all such tactical moves the cancer adopts to remain elusive, it is still possible to defeat it in the first go itself – provided we understand it in a better way and approach to a specialist in time.

Liver Cancer in a Nutshell

Cancerous or malignant cells develop within liver cells (hepatocytes) – hepatocellular carcinoma and also in the ducts of the liver (cholangiocarcinoma). When these hepatocytes are subjected to long-term damage owing to several causes – that we will discuss in the following paragraphs, scarring of liver takes place, which eventually leads to liver cirrhosis. In other words, long-term liver damage scars liver cells (cirrhosis) and increases the risk of liver cancer.

Remember – Cirrhosis of the liver due to any cause is a risk factor for Liver cancer.

Metastatic Cancer in the Liver

Metastatic cancer in the liver is a cancer that starts elsewhere in the body and spreads to liver. pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, colon, uterus, stomach and breast are the common cancers that can spread to liver.

Who are at Risk?

Sometimes, the cause may be unknown, but majority of the cases have been associated with risk factors known to cause liver damage and cirrhosis. surprisingly – the risk for liver cancer can increase manifolds if a person has chronic hepatitis C infection or fatty liver disease (due to obesity) or if an individual consumes excessive alcohol (many studies and findings have claimed that increase in number of liver cancer cases can be attributed to these high-risk factors).

Sometimes the style statement can go haywire as well – therefore, be careful while piercing tattoo

Improperly sterilized needles used during tattooing can spread hepatitis C and hepatitis B viruses and increase the risk. Furthermore, liver cirrhosis caused by chronic hepatitis C, and Chronic Hepatitis B without cirrhosis; certain inherited disorders like haemochromatosis that build up slowly over several years and primary biliary cirrhosis (a condition that damages bile ducts) – a long-term liver disease, can also increase the risk of liver cancer. Being old (age above 55 years); being Asian and being male and having a strong family history are the other risk factors.

What else can increase liver cancer risk?

Surprisingly the following factors can also increase liver cancer risk

Long-term use of anabolic steroids to gain muscles and increase endurance (body builders must take precautionary approach here) uncontrolled diabetes, pesticides and chemicals like arsenic and vinyl chloride; aflatoxins produced by certain molds, drug abuse, certain metabolic disorders; and some rare diseases like Wilson’s disease; alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency and tyrosinemia can all increase liver cancer risk.

Why Liver cancer is a bit challenging proposition?

Liver cancer does not manifest itself until very late stages – wherein too little is left for the doctors as well as the patient. The irony with this type of cancer is that neither the patient lose weight nor they feel pain – but they do so (symptoms manifest) only when the cancer has transformed into terminal stage cancer – by then it is too late. On the contrary, the good news is that if the cancer is caught early, it will be surprisingly easy to treat. What I believe as a specialist is that precise and timely diagnosis is very much possible if you have better understanding of liver cancer and show promptness in seeking timely medical help.

Can Liver Cancer be Prevented?

Yes, you can cut-down the risk of getting liver cancer manifolds by making changes in your lifestyle and leading a healthy life. Take a resolution to cut-down alcohol or avoid it altogether. Take utmost precautions and safety measures to avoid being infected by hepatitis B and C; ensure that the needles that are being used for, not only piercing tattoos, but for any other purpose are properly sterilized; and last, but not least – avoid high-risk sexual activities, or else take precautions and safety measures.

Bottom Line

Plethora of causes including known, unknown, preventable or unpreventable can contribute silently to the damage caused to the liver culminating into a late-stage liver cancer – which often becomes life-threatening and difficult to treat. Owing to the versatility of the causes mostly lifestyle related – vigilantly monitoring the functionality of this pivotal organ at the slightest of fault is the best you can do to safeguard it against the perils of silently progressing cancer. Apart from seeking timely medical help, you must also know what does taking care of your liver means on a day-to-day basis. If you are still a bit sceptical about your case, then timely approach to a specialist would be a best bet for you.

Next topics…

If symptoms manifest, how they unravel?

How is Liver Cancer Diagnosed?

What is the treatment for liver cancer?