Do You Know the Early Signs of Liver Cancer?

Liver cancer is among the fastest rising cancers in America.

When dealing with liver cancer, early diagnosis is of the utmost importance. If liver cancer spreads to other areas of the body, there’s only a slim chance for you to beat the odds.

The First Symptoms of Liver Cancer

Unfortunately, the symptoms of liver cancer rarely appear early. In many instances, the warning signs won’t become obvious until the later stages of the disease. Therefore, immediate treatment is critical. Regular screenings will ultimately give you the best chance for survival.

Let’s take a look at some of the first symptoms of liver cancer.

Severe Abdominal Pain on Your Right Side

Dull pain in the upper abdomen can stem from liver cancer. When pressing the area, the discomfort will likely become more intense.

Even powerful painkillers will only provide temporary relief.

Weight Loss

Like any other cancer, liver cancer can cause a person to lose weight for no apparent reason. Along with the weight loss often comes a loss of appetite.

After eating a small meal, you may feel full. Over time, you may notice that your clothes have started to fit looser.

Painless Lump

Liver cancer can cause a painless lump to form just below your rib cage. If you do feel any pain, it will likely occur outside of the tumor.

Shoulder-Blade Pain

Understandably, most people tend to associate shoulder-blade pain with an injury. However, this can indicate liver cancer.

In fact, the nerves of the liver link to your shoulders.

Jaundice

Jaundice, which is yellowing of the skin, is a sign of liver cancer. This yellowish tint will be especially evident under outdoor light. Itching of the skin often occurs at the same time.

Bloating

Like indigestion, liver cancer can cause bloating. However, it will happen far more frequently. This is a result of excess fluid in the abdomen. The fluid will eventually stretch to the lungs, which leads to shortness of breath.

Feeling Sick and Weak

Cancer can make you feel sick. Aside from nausea, there will be a big decrease in your energy levels. You may be too tired to perform your normal daily activities.

Liver Cancer Risk Factors

Heavy Alcohol Use

People who abuse alcohol are more prone to having liver cancer. This is especially true for individuals who consume more than four drinks a day. After years of heavy alcohol use, damage to the liver cells is bound to happen.

Cirrhosis is one of the key contributing factors. Once you scar the liver, the risk of cancer increases dramatically. The good news is that you can minimize further damage by simply stop drinking.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B has been proven to cause liver cancer. Some of the most common ways of getting hepatitis B include unprotected sex and sharing of needles. Everyone should obtain a hepatitis B vaccine, which is a great preventive measure.

If a person does obtain this disease, they should be routinely monitored by a doctor. A yearly ultrasound for cancer is highly recommended.

Obesity

People who are obese have a greater chance of experiencing liver cancer. Research shows it increases your risk by nearly 90 percent. This stems from extra fat being deposited in the liver.

Arsenic Exposure

Arsenic can be a very dangerous substance. Although arsenic is naturally found in the environment, too much of it can cause big problems.

Well water tends to have higher levels of arsenic. Since public drinking water in the city is tested for arsenic, it’s generally safer than groundwater. Nevertheless, this isn’t always the case.

Smoking

Smoking can have a detrimental impact on the entire body, including your liver. Long-time cigarette smokers are even more at risk of suffering from liver cancer.

How is Liver Cancer Diagnosed?

Blood Tests

If a doctor suspects liver cancer, a blood test is typically given. This helps highlight abnormal cells in the body.

Imaging Scans

Both an MRI and CT scan can help reveal a cancerous tumor in the liver. Doctors will be able to clearly see any strange lesions.

Biopsy

A biopsy involves removing a small sample of tissue. It can then be thoroughly analyzed under a microscope.

When performing the biopsy, the doctor will insert a thin needle into the liver. Remember, this procedure carries risks like infection and bleeding.

Laparoscopy

When physicians want to acquire a closer look at the liver, they may opt to perform a laparoscopy. A flexible tube is placed into the body. With the use of a specialized camera, surgeons can carefully inspect the entire area for damage.

Treating Liver Cancer

Surgery

When liver cancer is detected early, surgery is usually the first approach. As part of the procedure, a specialist will attempt to remove the cancerous tumor. You don’t need to worry. It only takes a few weeks for the liver to grow back to its regular size.

If the liver is in extremely poor condition, doctors may advise a complete transplant. Unfortunately, a liver transplant can be extremely dangerous. There’s always a chance your body may reject the donor’s liver.

Radiation Therapy

If a tumor cannot be surgically removed, radiation therapy is typically the next approach.

Radiation therapy helps to gradually shrink and kill the cancerous cells. After several weeks of radiation treatment, some people start to experience fewer symptoms.

Chemotherapy

While chemotherapy can be effective, there are some major side effects.

Chemotherapy cannot distinguish healthy cells from cancerous ones. As such, the powerful drugs can actually weaken the immune system.

Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is among the newest ways used to treat liver cancer. It’s designed to help your immune system to work more effectively.

The main downside of immunotherapy is that it doesn’t work as quickly as other treatments.

Cryotherapy

More and more doctors have started to advocate cryotherapy. This treatment freezes the cancerous cells, thus killing them in the process.

There are many perks to using cryotherapy, including faster recovery and fewer complications. However, its long-term effectiveness is still unknown to the medical world.

Final Thoughts

To overcome liver cancer, it’s essential to act as soon as possible. In fact, the five-year survival rate for people who get treated early is 31 percent. If the cancer has spread, that five-year survival rate drops to 11 percent.

If you have any of the risk factors, be sure to get evaluated by a doctor regularly. Quickly reporting any symptoms will certainly improve your chances of survival.

Andrii Zastrozhnov / Shutterstock

Nov 27, 2019