October is Liver Cancer Awareness Month! Let’s learn about liver cancer so we can share information with our community to increase awareness.
What is the main function of the liver?
The liver has liver 500 functions. However, the main functions of the liver are to: • make bile to help digest fat that comes from food • store glycogen (sugar), which the body uses for energy • filter harmful substances from the blood so they can be passed from the body in stools and urine
What is liver cancer?
Liver cancer is a disease in which malignant cancer cells form on the liver. The two most common liver cancers are hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and bile duct cancer (cholangiocarcinoma). HCC is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide.
What are the risk factors for developing liver cancer?
There are several risk factors associated with the development of liver cancer that includes a combination of genetic, biological, behavioral, socioeconomic, and environmental and lack of access to healthcare. Additional risk factors include male gender, Asian American and Pacific Islander descent, exposure to aflatoxins, diagnosis of hepatitis B, hepatitis cirrhosis, hereditary hemochromatosis, type II diabetes, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and excessive tobacco and alcohol use
What are the different stages and treatments of liver cancer?
According to ASCO (2022), HCC is staged using the Barcelona Clinic Liver Cancer (BCLC) system is used to stage liver cancer. The BCLC system categorizes Liver cancer based on the tumor size, liver function, performance status, and cancer-related symptoms. See the description of stages and recommended liver cancer treatments below:
• Very early stage: The tumor is smaller than 2 centimeters (cm). There is no increased pressure in the portal vein, which is one of the main blood vessels of the liver. Bilirubin levels, which is the substance that causes jaundice, are normal.
• Early stage: The tumor is smaller than 5 cm. Liver function varies. There may be no increased pressure in the portal vein, increased portal vein pressure and normal bilirubin levels, or increased portal vein pressure and increased bilirubin levels.
• Intermediate stage: The tumor may be large or there may be multiple tumors.
• Advanced stage: The tumor has invaded the portal vein or spread to other parts of the body, such as the lymph nodes, lungs, and bones.
What are the signs and symptom of liver cancer?
• A hard lump on the right side just below the rib cage
• Discomfort in the upper abdomen on the right side
• A swollen abdomen • Pain near the right shoulder blade or in the back
• Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
• Easy bruising or bleeding
• Unusual tiredness or weakness
• Nausea and vomiting
• Loss of appetite or feelings of fullness after eating a small meal
• Weight loss for no known reason
• Pale, chalky bowel movements and dark urine
*Consult your doctor if you have any of the above signs or symptoms
How can liver cancer be prevented?
• Avoid hepatitis B and hepatitis C
• Limit alcohol and tobacco use
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Reduce expose to cancer causing chemical
What disparities are seen in liver cancer?
Liver cancer health disparities are related to gender, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Males and patients of lower socioeconomic status have a higher incidence of liver cancer and high mortality rate compared to their female counterparts. Minorities, especially African Americans have a higher incidence and death rate from liver cancer when compared to their White counterparts. One study found that a similar proportion of HCC was detected by surveillance among whites and nonwhites, however but Whites were likely to receive follow up care within the year compared to their counterparts. Another study found that African American and Asian Pacific Islanders patients, were less likely to undergo liver transplant and Hispanic patients were less likely to receive liver resection and liver ablation. The treatment disparities are based on lack of access of appropriate healthcare as evidence by the US state cancer registry, showed that Hispanic and African American patients are more likely to be evaluated at safety net hospitals which is associated with increased mortality. In conclusion, despite the high mortality rate associated with liver cancer, it can be treated if detected early. We must take steps to reduce our risk of being diagnosed with liver cancer and close the gap on the existing health disparities. We can help by encouraging our friends and family to have open conversations about cancer prevention, educating our social media followers on the content in this article and using the hashtags #OctoberIs4Livers or #LCAM, and ensuring that we are up to date on cancer screenings as early detection is the key to survival.