We provide professional support in Liver Cancer Surgery
Liver is located in the right upper corner of the
abdominal cavity and it is confined by diaphragm in the upper margin, lower
ends of ribs of right hemithorax in the lower margin and stomach in the left
margin. It has two lobes; right and left lobes.
The gall bladder that plays a very significant role in
the digestive system is just beneath the lower surface of the liver. The bile synthesized by the liver is drained into and
stored in the gall bladder through tiny canals.
Comparing to other cancers, liver cancer is relatively
rare. Although various types of cancers develop in the
liver, most liver cancer cases originate from native cells of the liver
(hepatocyte). The most common one is hepatocellular cancer, but
there are also other types, such as cholangiosarcoma and hepatoblastoma. However, secondary or metastatic cancers, namely
cancers that originate in and spread from other organ, are more common than
primary cancers of the liver.
Liver diseases may progress to very serious conditions
and can result in death, if they are left untreated. Liver is an organ that fulfills very important
functions in the body. Some of these functions are
The risk factors that are known to cause liver cancer
are as follows:
Chronic Hepatitis B and/or Hepatitis C infection
Exposure to aflatoxine in foods
Heavy alcohol consumption
Abnormal fat deposition in liver
Exposure to certain chemical substances
Hepatocellular carcinoma:It is the most
common type of liver cancers. It accounts for up to 85% of
primary liver cancer cases. It is more prevalent in advanced
ages and men.
Other types of liver cancer include cholangiosarcoma
that begin in cells of the bile ducts, angiosarcoma (or hemangiosarcoma) that
begin in blood vessels of the liver and hepatoblastoma that is very rare and
usually affects children.
As is the case with most of other cancers, liver
cancer is also asymptomatic in early stages. Following symptoms may develop
in advanced stages. In this case, you should
necessarily visit your doctor.
As is the case for all other cancers, prevention of
liver cancer is also to eliminate or minimize manageable risks. It is substantially important to maintain healthy
weight, consume alcohol reasonably, decrease use of chemical substances,
vaccination for hepatitis (Hepatitis B), avoid factors that cause hepatitis C,
such as tattoos, unprotected sex and illicit drugs and minimize the risks that
may cause liver injury, such as cirrhosis.
Routine health examination and physical examination
that is done when one visits a doctor for a complaint are the first step in the
diagnosis of liver cancer. Palpable liver in the
abdominal exam, jaundice of skin and eyes, abnormal abdominal convexity and resultant
effacement of belly button as well as loss of hair in abdominal skin point to a
problem in the liver.
If the imaging studies (Ultrasound, CT, MRI, PET) that
are ordered to investigate findings suspicious for liver cancer show a mass,
provisional diagnosis is made.
Blood tests may also give clues that may reveal out
the abnormalities in functions of liver.
The definitive diagnosis of the liver cancer requires
biopsy. A thin needle is inserted into the liver under
guidance of an imaging modality, mostly ultrasound, and biopsy specimen is
taken and examined.
After diagnosis of the liver cancer is established,
the next step is to determine the stage. Your doctor will determine
stage (I to IV) of your cancer based on a set of very strict criteria.
When the liver cancer is diagnosed, your doctor will
first determine size, location, spread and stage of the cancer.
Generally cancer phases are symbolized with Roman
numbers I to IV. Stage IV is the most advanced stage of cancer. Treatment is planned specific to person regarding the
phase, age, general health condition and personal preferences.
Among the treatment options of the liver cancer are
chemotherapy, ablation, embolization, targeted treatment, radiotherapy and
surgery. While these treatments are used to cure the tumor,
they can be used to increase quality of life and to ease the severity of the
symptoms in advanced stages. Moreover, the treatment
options can be used together or alone.
Chemotherapy uses drugs to cure cancer. The active ingredients in these drugs kill cancer
cells. Chemotherapy drugs can be administered intravenously
or by mouth. If the drug is administrated through a vein, a thin
tube, called a catheter, is inserted into a large vein and chemotherapy drug is
delivered from this catheter throughout the course of the treatment.
One or more chemotherapy medicines may be administered
according to the response of the cancer to the treatment and the type of
cancer. After chemotherapy is given for a certain period, treatment
is paused. After the completion of this defined “break” period,
treatment resumes. Each of these periods is called cycle.
Side effects of chemotherapy are secondary to the
chemotherapeutic agent and dose. Most common side effects seen
in chemotherapy drugs include; malaise, nausea, vomiting, mouth sores, hair
loss and inflammation in the digestive system. Side effects caused by
chemotherapy will also be treated by your doctor. In case of the side effects
become severe to threaten your health, your doctor may advise to suspend the
treatment or to take another chemotherapy medicine.
Targeted therapies are newer anti-cancer treatments
compared to chemotherapy. These medicines target
specific abnormalities that are present in cancerous cells. Before these medicines are started, cancer cells are
first analyzed in laboratories to determine whether they have particular
mutations or not.
Radiation therapy aims to kill cancer cells by using
high-powered energy beams.
If the radiation source is out of the body and beams
are directed to cancer, this treatment is called external radiotherapy. On the other hand, if the radioactive agent is put
into the area that cancer is present by a needle or catheter, method is called
internal radiotherapy (brachytheraphy).
Although radiation therapy can also be used as first
order therapy of cancer, generally it is used to kill cells that are not
removed by surgery. In the first-line treatment,
mostly radiotherapy and chemotherapy are administered together and this
treatment is also known as chemoradiotheraphy. It plays an important role in
relieving or eliminating pain, shortness of breath and chronic cough in
advanced stage cancers.
If the liver cancer is very small in size,
stereotactic radiotherapy (radiosurgery) may be useful in killing cancer cells
by focusing radiation beams precisely on the tumor. In some cases, radiosurgery may remove the requirement
for traditional surgery. However, patient selection is
a very important issue for radiosurgery.
The side effects of radiotherapy take place in a very
wide range depending on the body region where the radioactive rays are
Local therapies including but not limited to ablation
– killing cancer cells by heating or freezing them-, chemoembolization –
injecting chemotherapeutic agent(s) into cancer cells- or injecting alcohol
into the tumor can be instituted depending on type, size and location of tumor.
Surgery is the definitive treatment for the liver
cancer. Your surgeon may remove the tumor along with a small
amount of tissue around the tumor, if the tumor is small, more than one tumor
exists, sufficient amount of liver tissue will remain after the surgery and
location of tumor allows a surgical procedure. Again, removal of one lobe of
the liver is a surgical option.
For patients with liver that is almost entirely
affected by the cancer, the only surgical option is liver transplant. Liver of the patient is completely removed and the
donor (living or deceased) liver is transferred to the patient.
Asking your questions about
the treatment of liver cancer, your life after treatment, rehabilitation, pain
management, clinical studies and all the questions in your mind about the liver
cancer to your doctor will help you for an informed participation to your
treatment and alleviating your concerns.