What is Hepatocellular Carcinoma (Liver)?
It is a malignancy (cancer) of the liver. It usually occurs in patients with underlying chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a chronic liver condition in which normal liver tissues are replaced by scar tissues. However, hepatocellular carcinoma can also occur in patients who have no risk factors for chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.
Disease Etiology (Causes)
There are the following causes and risk factors of hepatocellular cancer.
- Viral infections like Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C.
- Excessive alcohol consumption.
- Drug abuse.
- Aflatoxins (It is a harmful fungal toxin which can cause liver cell cancer on ingesting mouldy foods or grains).
- Non-alcoholic or metabolic disorders like obesity and diabetes.
- Hemochromatosis: it is a condition where excessive iron is stored in the body especially in liver cells, and the body becomes unable to get rid of it leading to liver cell injury and carcinoma.
- Liver cirrhosis due to underlying disease conditions.
Around the globe, hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cell cancer) is the 5th most common cancer. It is most prevalent in Asia and Africa. In Western Europe, the frequency of occurrence of new hepatocellular cancer cases is 5.3 per 100,000 populations. The overall likely course of the hepatocellular carcinoma is poor with a relative 5-year survival rate is 18.5%.
Signs and Symptoms
The patient may have the following signs and symptoms.
- Pruritus ( itching on all over the body or at a specific part of the body)
- Jaundice; yellowish discolouration of the skin and eyes due to the accumulation of bilirubin (an orange-yellow colour liver substance).
- Spleen enlargement
- Variceal bleeding ( blood comes up with vomiting due to rapture of esophagus, stomach and rectum veins)
- Abdominal ascites (accumulation of fluid in the abdomen).
- Pain in the right upper side of the abdomen
- Hepatic Encephalopathy: it is a condition where the patient’s brain functioning becomes reduced due to the advancement in liver disease.
- Cachexia: It is a condition in which the patient losses muscle mass and feel body weakness in the advanced stage of cancer.
The following investigations are helpful in diagnosing the disease and its extent. These are
- Complete blood count ( CBC)
- Blood coagulation profile (for example partial thromboplastin time PTT, international normalized ratio INR)
- Serum electrolyte levels
- Liver function tests (LFTs)
The selection of suitable treatment depends upon multiple factors like the size, number, and location of the tumour. Other factors are the overall performance of the liver or liver function, presence or absence of the spread of the tumour to other parts of the body, presence or absence of the liver cirrhosis, its extent, and risk involved in the case of surgery due to extent of the cirrhosis. On behalf of the above-mentioned factors there are following treatment options;
- Resection; surgical removal of the tumour along with some healthy tissues from the surroundings of the tumour to stop the spread of cancer in the early stage of cancer.
- Radio frequency Ablation; is a non-surgical technique to kill and to stop the spread of cancer cells in cases where surgery is not a suitable option.
- Targeted immunotherapy
- Liver Transplantation: it is a surgical procedure through which a diseased liver is replaced by a healthy liver from a donor.
What Support can we Give for Hepatocellular Carcinoma?
Hepatocellular Carcinoma is a rare cancer, meaning it is not as well known as other forms of cancer. Without a Ribbon is an Australian organisation that provides support for individuals who suffer from rare cancers. We provide a designated platform for Warriors to obtain information specific to their Rare Cancer. We also provide annual opportunities for our Warriors to meet and learn from each other. If you suffer from rare cancer such as Hepatocellular Carcinoma, we can help and support you through your journey thanks to the generous donations we receive. Click the link below to sign up and become a Warrior today!
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Without a Ribbon is a charity that works hard to aid those who suffer from rare cancers. You can help our cause in a variety of ways:
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