What is liver cancer? An expert explains
Learn more from liver surgeon Sean Cleary, M.D.
Hello. i am dr Sean Cleary, liver surgeon at the Mayo Clinic. In this video we cover the basics of liver cancer: what is it? who understands What are the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment? Whether you're looking for answers for yourself or someone you love, we're here to bring you the best information available. Before we get into liver cancer, let's first talk about what your liver actually does. Your liver is a football-sized organ that sits under the right part of your abdomen, below your diaphragm, and next to your stomach. The liver has over 500 known functions. But the most common way the liver works is: to balance the chemicals in the blood. Production of bile, which is a crucial part of the digestive process. Eliminate toxins from the blood and regulate blood clotting. About 24,500 men and 10,000 women are diagnosed with liver cancer in the United States each year. Most people who develop liver cancer have cancer that has spread, or metastasized, to the liver from another location, such as the colon, breast, stomach, or other organs. It is important to distinguish this type of cancer from liver cancer, which starts in liver cells. Treatment for cancer that has spread to the liver and does not start in the liver is determined by the original organ in the body where the cancer originated. For example, if the cancer starts in the colon and then spreads to the liver, it is called metastatic colon cancer. Today we will focus on liver cancer that starts in the liver. As with all cancers, liver cancer begins when changes or mutations build up in the DNA of these liver cells. Cellular DNA is the stuff that provides instructions for every chemical and structural process in your body. Mutations in the DNA lead to changes in these instructions. And if enough of these mutations accumulate and affect important genes, cells can begin to grow out of control and eventually form a tumor, or mass of cancerous cells.
Most liver cancers occur in people with underlying liver disease. But sometimes liver cancer occurs in people with no underlying liver disease, and it's not exactly clear why. Liver disease can cause long-term inflammation in the liver and accumulate mutations that can lead to cancer. One of the big problems is that many people can have liver disease and not realize it until their liver is severely damaged or cancerous. Here are some things we know to increase your risk of liver cancer: If you have chronic hepatitis B or C infection, cirrhosis, certain inherited liver disorders such as hemochromatosis and Wilson's disease, diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or exposure If you have too much aflatoxin, you have a higher risk of developing liver cancer. Excessive alcohol consumption over many years can also cause irreversible liver damage and lead to liver cancer.
Most people have no signs and symptoms in the early stages of primary liver cancer. When signs and symptoms do occur, they may include unintentional weight loss, loss of appetite, upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, general weakness and tiredness, abdominal swelling, jaundice, which causes yellowing of the eyes and skin, and white, tarry stools. Limestone. Other symptoms may include fever, enlarged veins in the abdomen that are visible through the skin, and abnormal bruising or bleeding. Ultrasound screening programs are very effective in detecting liver cancer before symptoms develop. And we encourage anyone with known liver problems to talk to their doctor about whether screening is right for you.
Tests and procedures used to diagnose liver cancer include blood tests. These can reveal abnormalities in liver function. Imaging methods such as ultrasound, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging. And if you are diagnosed, the next step is to determine the extent or stage of the liver cancer. Your doctor will order staging tests to determine the size and location of the cancer and whether it has spread. Imaging tests used to stage liver cancer include CT scan, MRI scan, and bone scan. There are different methods for staging liver cancer. For example, one method uses Roman numerals from one to four and another uses letters from A to D. Your doctor evaluates the stage of your cancer to determine your treatment options and prognosis.
There are several ways your doctor can help you develop a strategy to fight liver cancer. Surgery may be scheduled to remove the tumor or to remove the entire liver to perform a liver transplant. Their treatment may include radiation therapy, which uses high-power energy from sources such as X-rays and protons to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors. The doctors carefully direct the energy to the liver and protect the surrounding healthy tissue. Chemotherapy is a common treatment and is the use of powerful chemicals to fight and hopefully kill the cancer. Targeted drug therapy focuses on specific abnormalities in cancer cells. By blocking these abnormalities, targeted drug treatments can lead to the death of cancer cells.
Liver cancer is a daunting diagnosis, but finding a team of experts working together can help you choose your best treatment options using the latest technology, the most advanced research, and expert nursing techniques. New therapies were worked on every day. We really hope for positive results. If you are interested in learning more about liver cancer, you can find related videos here or visit mayoclinic.org. We wish you all the best.
Liver cancer begins in liver cells. The most common form of liver cancer starts in cells called hepatocytes and is called hepatocellular carcinoma.
Liver cancer is cancer that begins in the cells of the liver. Your liver is a football-sized organ that sits in the upper-right part of your abdomen, below your diaphragm, and above your stomach.
Various types of cancer can form in the liver. The most common type of liver cancer is hepatocellular carcinoma, which begins in the liver's main cell type (hepatocytes). Other types of liver cancer, such as intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and hepatoblastoma, are much less common.
Cancer that spreads to the liver is more common than cancer that starts in liver cells. Cancer that starts in another area of the body — like the colon, lungs, or breast — and then spreads to the liver is called metastatic cancer rather than liver cancer. This type of cancer is named after the organ in which it originated — like metastatic colon cancer, to describe cancer that starts in the colon and spreads to the liver.
products and services
- hepatocellular carcinoma
The liver is your largest internal organ. It is about the size of a football and is mainly located in the upper right abdomen, below the diaphragm and above the stomach.
Most people have no signs and symptoms in the early stages of primary liver cancer. When signs and symptoms do appear, they may include:
- Lose weight without trying
- Dor abdominal superior
- nausea and vomiting
- General weakness and fatigue
- abdominal swelling
- yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes (jaundice)
- White chalky stools
When to the doctor
Make an appointment with your doctor if you notice any signs or symptoms that worry you.
Book an appointment at the Mayo Clinic
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Liver cancer occurs when liver cells develop changes (mutations) in their DNA. A cell's DNA is the stuff that provides instructions for every chemical process in your body. Mutations in the DNA lead to changes in these instructions. One result is that the cells can start growing out of control and eventually form a tumor — a collection of cancer cells.
Sometimes the cause of liver cancer is known, as in chronic hepatitis infections. But sometimes liver cancer occurs in people with no underlying disease, and it's not clear what causes it.
Factors that increase the risk of primary liver cancer include:
- Chronic HBV or HCV infection.Chronic infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV) increases the risk of liver cancer.
- Cirrhosis.This progressive, irreversible condition leads to the formation of scar tissue in the liver and increases the likelihood of developing liver cancer.
- Certain hereditary liver diseases.Liver disorders that can increase the risk of liver cancer include hemochromatosis and Wilson's disease.
- Diabetes.People with this blood sugar disorder have a higher risk of liver cancer than people without diabetes.
- Non-alcoholic fatty liver.Accumulation of fat in the liver increases the risk of liver cancer.
- Exposure to aflatoxins.Aflatoxins are toxins produced by fungi growing in poorly stored plants. Plants such as grains and nuts can be contaminated with aflatoxins, which can find their way into foods made with these products.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.Daily consumption of more than a moderate amount of alcohol for many years can lead to irreversible liver damage and increase the risk of liver cancer.
Reduce the risk of cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver and increases the risk of liver cancer. You can reduce your risk of cirrhosis if:
- Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.If you decide to drink alcohol, limit the amount you drink. For women, that means no more than one drink a day. For men, that means no more than two drinks a day.
- Maintain a healthy weight.If your current weight is healthy, work to maintain it by eating a healthy diet and exercising most days of the week. If you need to lose weight, reduce the number of calories you eat each day and increase the amount of exercise you do. Try to lose weight slowly - 0.5 to 1 kg per week.
Vaccination against hepatitis B
You can reduce your risk of hepatitis B by getting the hepatitis B vaccine. The vaccine can be given to almost anyone, including babies, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems.
Take steps to prevent hepatitis C
There is no vaccine against hepatitis C, but you can reduce your risk of infection.
- Know the health status of each sexual partner.Don't have unprotected sex unless you're sure your partner hasn't been infectedHBV,AVKor any other sexually transmitted infection. If you don't know your partner's health, use a condom every time you have sex.
- Don't use intravenous (IV) medications, but if you do, use a clean needle.Reduce your riskAVKdo not inject illegal drugs. But if that's not an option for you, make sure any needles you use are sterile and don't share them. Contaminated drug paraphernalia is a common cause of hepatitis C infection. Take advantage of needle exchange programs in your community and consider seeking drug use help.
- Look for safe and clean shops when getting a piercing or tattoo.Improperly sterilized needles can transmit the hepatitis C virus. Before getting a piercing or tattoo, check out stores in your area and ask the staff about their safety practices. If a store's employees refuse to answer your questions or don't take them seriously, take it as a sign that the establishment is not right for you.
Get treatment for hepatitis B or C infection
There are treatments for both hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections. Research shows that treatment can reduce the risk of liver cancer.
Ask your doctor about liver cancer screening
In the general population, screening for liver cancer has not been shown to reduce the risk of death from liver cancer and is not generally recommended. People with medical conditions that increase their risk of liver cancer should consider screening, e.g. B. People with:
- Hepatitis B Infection
- liver cirrhosis
Discuss the pros and cons of screening with your doctor. Together you can decide whether the screening is suitable for you based on your risk. Screening usually includes a blood test and an abdominal ultrasound every six months.
By Mayo Clinic staff
What is the main cause of liver cancer? ›
Liver cancer can be caused by chronic infections with hepatitis C virus (HCV) or hepatitis B virus (HBV). The opioid epidemic has increased the number of people who inject drugs in the United States, which may lead to an increased risk of HCV and HBV transmission through use of shared equipment.What is one of the first signs of liver cancer? ›
When signs and symptoms do appear, they may include unintentional weight loss, loss of appetite, upper abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, general weakness and fatigue, abdominal swelling, jaundice where your eyes and skin turn yellow, and white, chalky stools.Who typically gets liver cancer? ›
Although liver cancer can happen at any age, it is most common in older people. Most people diagnosed are over the age of 60. The highest rates are in 85 to 89 year olds.Where does liver cancer usually start? ›
Primary liver cancers are tumors that develop directly from liver tissue. Secondary, or metastatic, liver cancers are tumors that start in another part of the body, such as the colon, then spread to the liver.What is the life expectancy after liver cancer? ›
Survival rates depend on several factors, including the stage of the disease. For the 43% of people who are diagnosed with liver cancer at an early stage, the 5-year survival rate is 35%. If the cancer has spread to surrounding tissues or organs and/or to the regional lymph nodes, the 5-year survival rate is 12%.Can liver cancer be cured? ›
Liver cancer is often treatable, but it can be difficult to treat. The treatment you have will depend on: if the cancer started in the liver (primary) or spread from somewhere else (secondary), but treatments for primary and secondary liver cancer are similar. the size and type of liver cancer you have.Is liver cancer fast spreading? ›
Primary liver cancer is a life-threatening illness and one of the fastest growing cancer types in the United States. Most primary liver cancer is cancer in your liver and cancer in bile ducts in your liver.How is liver cancer usually found? ›
Surveillance for liver cancer
ultrasound scans – high-frequency sound waves are used to create an image of your liver, which can highlight any abnormalities. blood tests – your blood is tested for a protein called alpha-fetoprotein (AFP), which is found in some people with liver cancer.
- Blood tests. Blood tests may reveal liver function abnormalities.
- Imaging tests. Your doctor may recommend imaging tests, such as an ultrasound, CT and MRI.
- Removing a sample of liver tissue for testing.
- Unintended weight loss.
- Pain in the right side of the upper abdomen or around the right shoulder blade.
- Loss of appetite.
- Swelling or bloating in the abdomen.
- Feeling of fullness after a small meal.
- Hard lump below the ribs on the right side.
- Tiredness or weakness.
- Nausea or vomiting.
Can a blood test detect cancer in the liver? ›
No single blood test can diagnose liver cancer, but liver cancer blood tests can detect signs of liver dysfunction. Depending on a person's signs and symptoms, a doctor may recommend further testing, such as a liver biopsy. Although blood tests cannot diagnose liver cancer, they can screen for signs of cancer.What kind of pain does liver cancer cause? ›
Liver cancer pain is commonly focused on the top right of the abdominal area, near the right shoulder blade. The pain can sometimes extend into the back. It can also be felt in the lower right portion of the rib cage. The pain might be accompanied by swelling in the abdomen and in the legs and ankles.What stage of liver cancer is curable? ›
In general, only early-stage liver cancer can be cured. Doctors use diagnostic tests to find out the cancer's stage, so staging may not be complete until all of the tests are finished. Knowing the stage helps the doctor recommend the best kind of treatment and may help predict a patient's prognosis.Can chemotherapy cure liver cancer? ›
In most cases, chemotherapy is not a cure for liver cancer. Because traditional chemotherapy is not effective in treating liver cancer, physicians sometimes recommend a different form of chemotherapy called hepatic artery infusion (HAI).What are the last stages of liver cancer before death? ›
- Worsening weakness and exhaustion.
- A need to sleep much of the time, often spending most of the day in bed or resting.
- Weight loss and muscle thinning or loss.
- Minimal or no appetite and difficulty eating or swallowing fluids.
- Decreased ability to talk and concentrate.
Age: More than 85% of people with liver cancer are 55 or older at diagnosis.Can you live without a liver? ›
You can't live without a working liver. If your liver stops working properly, you may need a transplant. A liver transplant may be recommended if you have end-stage liver disease (chronic liver failure). This is a serious, life-threatening liver disease.What causes liver cancer besides alcohol? ›
Chronic viral hepatitis
Worldwide, the most common risk factor for liver cancer is chronic (long-term) infection with hepatitis B virus (HBV) or hepatitis C virus (HCV). These infections lead to cirrhosis of the liver and are responsible for making liver cancer the most common cancer in many parts of the world.
It is often hard to find liver cancer early because signs and symptoms often do not appear until it is in its later stages. Small liver tumors are hard to detect on a physical exam because most of the liver is covered by the right rib cage. By the time a tumor can be felt, it might already be quite large.Will a CT scan show liver cancer? ›
A CT scan of the abdomen can help find many types of liver tumors. It can give specific information about the size, shape, and location of any tumors in the liver or elsewhere in the abdomen, as well as nearby blood vessels.
What foods can cause liver cancer? ›
Summary: Mexican scientists identified and quantified the amount of aflatoxins (carcinogenic) in food such as corn tortilla, rice, chili pepper, processed sauces, chicken breast and eggs, and revealed its relationship with cervical and liver cancer in humans.Is there any chance of surviving liver cancer? ›
Survival for all stages of liver cancer
almost 40 out of 100 people (almost 40%) will survive their cancer for 1 year or more after diagnosis. almost 15 in 100 people (almost 15%) will survive their cancer for 5 years or more after they are diagnosed.
Foods that support liver health include berries, cruciferous vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and fatty fish. Coffee and green tea contain antioxidants that are helpful for liver health.What should you avoid if you have liver cancer? ›
- saturated or trans fats, such as red meats , full-fat milk, and pastries.
- added sugars, such as sweetened beverages, cakes, cookies, and candies.
- salts, such as sodium-rich canned soups, cured meats, and potato chips.