October is the month dedicated to creating awareness about Liver Cancer, which is ranked as the 5th common type of cancer. Emerald green is the colour of choice for this awareness date. The liver is a reddish-brown, large organ that is found in the upper quadrant on the right side of the abdomen. It has a right and left lobe that is surrounded by organs such as the gallbladder, the pancreas and the intestines. The liver is the heaviest organ in the body and it is located next to the stomach and lies above the gall bladder.
Understanding Liver Cancer
The liver is involved in protein synthesis, drug metabolism and detoxification of various chemicals in the body. Filtration of blood from the digestive system before passage into other parts of the body is carried out in the liver. Liver Cancer development and progression is due to alteration of the normal cells of the liver into abnormal ones. These abnormal cells can cause harm to the nearby cells and it can metastasise to distant organs. The major type of Liver Cancer is known as Hepatocellular Carcinoma. Other more minor types include Intrahepatic Cholangiocarcinoma and Hepatoblastoma.
Metastatic Liver Cancer is one that spreads from the primary site of development to secondary sites in the body. This spread is facilitated by the bloodstream. Liver Cancer can occur due to different causes. Damage of liver leads to cirrhosis which leads to the production of scars in the liver tissue. This increases susceptibility to Liver Cancer. Cirrhosis can occur as a result of successive alcohol intake for a period of many years.
Long-term viral infections such as Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C can also lead to Liver Cirrhosis. Increased levels of Iron in the body as a result of an inherited disorder known as Hemochromatosis is also a cause of Cirrhosis. Another risk factor in Liver Cancer is an unhealthy lifestyle and obesity. The risk of Liver Cancer also increases as people reach the age of 55.
Liver Cancer Symptoms
A person with Liver Cancer can experience symptoms such as reduced appetite, drastic weight loss, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and yellowing of the skin due to jaundice. As the tumour grows and increases in size, patients may experience pain and often a feeling of fullness even after only eating small amounts of food. Diagnosis of Liver Cancer can be carried out through taking a liver biopsy. This involves sampling a part of liver tissue to check for any abnormality. Diagnosis can also be carried out by taking blood tests to check the elevation of some enzymes in the liver. Imaging can also be done to check lesions that might be in the liver
The main aim of National Liver Cancer Awareness Month is to educate people on the importance of early detection of Liver Cancer and to promote a more healthy lifestyle to help avoid future complications associated with the liver.